ESTATE OF CONCETTA SCHATZ, et al.
JOHN CRANE, INC.
Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case Nos. 24X1500318 &
Wright, Beachley, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge, Specially
2015, Concetta Schatz ("Mrs. Schatz") passed away
from malignant mesothelioma. After her death, Mrs.
Schatz's estate and her four surviving daughters
("appellants") commenced a products liability
action against John Crane, Inc. ("JCI" or
"appellee"). Appellants alleged that Mrs.
Schatz's husband, William Schatz ("Mr.
Schatz"), would handle JCI products containing asbestos
while at work, and then bring his asbestos-covered clothing
home for Mrs. Schatz to clean, thus exposing her to asbestos
case proceeded to trial. At the close of appellants'
case-in-chief, JCI moved for judgment, arguing that
appellants had failed to prove that JCI owed a legal duty to
warn Mrs. Schatz pursuant to Georgia-Pacific, LLC v.
Farrar, 432 Md. 523 (2013). Following arguments, the
trial court granted JCI's motion. Appellants timely
appealed and present two questions for our review, which we
have condensed as follows:
1. Whether the circuit court erred in granting JCI's
motion for judgment.
that the court did not err, and affirm.
Schatz married Mrs. Schatz on November 13, 1955. Near the
time of their marriage, Mr. Schatz began working for
Baltimore Gas & Electric ("BG&E"), where he
continued to work until he retired in the mid-to-late 1980s.
For approximately the first two years of his employment with
BG&E, Mr. Schatz worked with turbines. He was then
transferred to Wagner Station and shortly thereafter was
promoted to mechanic. Mr. Schatz remained a mechanic at
Wagner Station for the rest of his career with BG&E.
While working at Wagner Station as a mechanic, Mr. Schatz was
responsible for repairing and maintaining a variety of
equipment, including air compressors, coal machinery, fly ash
hoppers, and of particular relevance here, boilers.
boilers at Wagner Station each contained approximately 200
doors. The packing or sealing surrounding these doors would
routinely deteriorate due to heat and dirt from the boilers,
and Mr. Schatz and other mechanics were tasked with replacing
the damaged packing with JCI rope. The rope used was white and
flexible, and when mechanics would cut it to fit into the
doors, it created dust and dirt. Unfortunately, from 1930
until 1985, JCI's rope contained sixty percent chrysotile
did not provide any laundry services to its employees when
Mr. Schatz worked at Wagner Station as a mechanic, so he
would typically take his dirty work clothes home for his wife
to wash. Approximately every other day, Mrs. Schatz would
shake out and wash the dirty work clothes, breathing in the
dust as she did so. After Mrs. Schatz passed away due to
mesothelioma, appellants filed this products liability claim
trial against JCI began on July 25, 2017. JCI moved for
judgment on August 4, at the close of appellants'
case-in-chief. On August 8, the circuit court held that JCI
did not owe a duty to warn Mrs. Schatz, and granted JCI's
motion. Appellants timely appealed. We shall provide
additional facts as necessary for our analysis.
review the trial court's grant of [JCI's] motion for
judgment de novo, considering the evidence and
reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party." Thomas v.
Panco Mgmt. of Md., LLC, 423 Md. 387, 393-94 (2011)
(citing C & M Builders, LLC v. Strub, 420 Md.
268, 290 (2011)).
argue that the circuit court erred in concluding that JCI did
not owe a duty to warn Mrs. Schatz. Specifically, they claim
that: 1) the court erred "in finding that household
members constitute an indeterminate class, contrary to the
holding in Farrar"; and 2) "[U]nder
Farrar, a duty to warn extended to household members
beginning in 1972 when OSHA promulgated safety regulations
dealing specifically with the problem of tracking asbestos
dust on clothing into the home." We first explain why
JCI did not have a duty to warn Mrs. Schatz of the danger of
exposure to its asbestos ropes. Though not material to our
holding, we then briefly address the court's finding that
Mrs. Schatz did not belong to a "definite determinative
class" under Farrar.
Did Not Owe a Duty to Mrs. Schatz
parties to this appeal dispute whether JCI owed a duty to
warn Mrs. Schatz of the dangers of its asbestos product. In
Farrar, a case directly on point, the Court of
Appeals discussed whether a manufacturer and supplier of an
asbestos product had a duty to warn the family member of a
bystander who was exposed to its product. 432 Md. at 526.
There, John Hentgen ("Mr. Hentgen"), a mechanic in
the construction industry, worked on a project at the
Forrestal Building in Washington D.C. for a six or
seven-month period from 1968 to 1969. Id. at 525.
While there, Mr. Hentgen worked in the immediate vicinity of
workers who would install drywall and then apply a
"Georgia Pacific Ready-Mix joint compound to smooth the
joints between the drywall slabs." Id. at
525-26. During the time that Mr. Hentgen worked at the
Forrestal Building, Georgia Pacific's "Ready-Mix
contained asbestos, and the sanding created a great deal of
dust that got on Mr. Hentgen's clothes, hair, and
skin." Id. at 526.
end of each work week, Mr. Hentgen would bring his work
clothes home to be washed. Id. at 525. Jocelyn
Farrar ("Ms. Farrar"), the plaintiff in that case,
was Mr. Hentgen's granddaughter. Id.
"During her teenage years in the 1960s, Ms. Farrar and
her sister shared the task of shaking out Mr. Hentgen's
work clothes, which were covered with asbestos-laden dust,
laundering them, and sweeping the dust from the floor."
Id. Unfortunately, Ms. Farrar was diagnosed with
mesothelioma in 2008. Id.
Farrar filed claims against more than thirty defendants,
including Georgia Pacific, alleging, inter alia,
strict liability and negligence claims. Id. at 526.
After the jury ruled in Ms. Farrar's favor, Georgia
Pacific appealed, arguing that the trial court had erred in
denying its motion for judgment because it had no duty to
warn Ms. Farrar. Id. After this Court affirmed the
circuit court's judgment, the Court of Appeals reversed,
agreeing with Georgia Pacific that it did not have a duty to
warn persons such as Ms. Farrar. Id.
discussing whether Georgia Pacific had a duty to warn, the
Court of Appeals explained that "[a]t its core, the
determination of whether a duty exists represents a policy
question of whether the specific plaintiff is entitled to
protection from the defendant." Id. at 529
(quoting Gourdine v. Crews, 405 Md. 722, 745
(2008)). The Court recognized that "[t]here is no set
formula for the determination of whether a duty exists,"
but stated that it "applied a 'foreseeability of
harm' test, 'which is based upon the recognition that
duty must be limited to avoid liability for unreasonably
remote circumstances[.]'" Id. at 529
(quoting Doe v. Pharmacia & Upjohn Co., 388 Md.
407, 415 (2005)). The Court cautioned, however, that
"[w]hile foreseeability is often considered among the
most important of [the] factors, its existence alone does not
suffice to establish a duty under Maryland law."
Id. at 530 (quoting Gourdine, 405 Md. at
establishing the overarching policy considerations, the Court
narrowed its focus for ...