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May v. Air & Liquid Sys. Corp.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

October 3, 2014

PHILIP ROYCE MAY, ET AL.
v.
AIR & LIQUID SYSTEMS CORPORATION ETC. ET AL

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, John M. Glynn, Judge.

Argued by: Jonathan Ruckdeschel (Z. Stephen Horvat, Jaqueline G. Badders, Ruckdeschel Firm, LLC, of Ellicott City. MD. Jeffrey A. O'Connell, Christopher Norris, Nemeroff Law Firm of Dallas, TX) on the brief, for Appellant

Argued by: F. Ford Loker (Miles & Stockbridge, PC of Baltimore, MD) Laurie J. Hepler (Carroll Burdick & McDonough, LLP, Thomas M. Goss, Goodell, Devries. Leech & Dann, LLP of Baltimore, MD, Joel Newport, Moore & Jackson, LLC of Towson, MD) all on the briefs for Appellee

Panel: Woodward, Kehoe, Arthur, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1285

[219 Md.App. 426] Arthur, J.

In Ford Motor Co. v. Wood, 119 Md.App. 1, 34, 703 A.2d 1315, cert. denied, 349 Md. 494, 709 A.2d 139 (1998), this Court held that an automobile manufacturer could not be held liable in tort for failing to warn of the latent dangers of asbestos-containing replacement parts that it neither manufactured nor placed into the stream of commerce. In this case, we reaffirm that decision and, in accordance with a number of out-of-state cases that have followed in its wake, hold that the manufacturers of steam pumps in Navy ships cannot be held liable for failing to warn of the dangers of asbestos-containing replacement parts (gaskets and packing) that they neither manufactured nor placed into the stream of commerce.

Question Presented

Appellants present two questions for our review, which we rephrase and combine below into one question:

Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment as to whether defendants had a duty to warn of the hazards associated with replacement parts for the products they sold?[1]

[219 Md.App. 427] For the reasons that follow, we answer no and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff Philip Royce May served on active duty in the United States Navy for 20 years, from 1956 until 1976. For almost all of those 20 years, Mr. May worked as a machinist mate in one of the several engine rooms of a naval vessel. As a machinist mate, Mr. May's duties included replacing asbestos gaskets and " packing" in the pumps that pumped superheated steam through the ship's steam-propulsion system.[2]

Mr. May's work exposed him to airborne asbestos fibers. When removing gaskets, Mr. May would have to use a hand-held scraper, a wire brush, or a pneumatic brush, which generated respirable dust. When fabricating a new gasket for installation, Mr. May would have to shape it into the proper size, which also generated respirable dust. When removing packing, Mr. May would have to get within two inches of a valve to blow out the last pieces of packing, which generated respirable dust as well.

Page 1286

Defendants Air & Liquid Systems Corp., Warren Pumps LLC, and IMO Industries, Inc., manufactured the steam pumps whose gaskets and packing Mr. May would replace. In accordance with the Navy's specifications, the defendants' pumps contained asbestos gaskets and packing when the defendants first delivered them to the Navy.

During Mr. May's career, he served on a total of seven ships, all of which were built and launched at least five years before his service on them began. Indeed, six of the seven [219 Md.App. 428] were built and launched during World War II, more than a decade before Mr. May joined the Navy. As Mr. May testified in his deposition, he never served on the maiden voyage of any navy vessel.

Because Mr. May never served on a maiden voyage, he was never the first mechanic to perform maintenance on any of those pumps and to replace the original gaskets or packing in them. In fact, the pumps in question had been serviced on many occasions before he worked on any of them. Thus, Mr. May was not exposed to any asbestos-containing products that had been made or sold by any of the defendant-manufacturers. Instead, he was exposed to ...


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