By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.
The question of whether Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (Goodyear) manufactured asbestos-containing brake linings as well as whether it exercised control over one of its divisions that used those brake linings in assembling aircraft brakes required jury resolution, an Ohio Court of Appeals ruled, reversing the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Goodyear (Taylor v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., June 6, 2018, Hensal, J.)
The decedent, who had been employed by Goodyear Aerospace Corp. (Aerospace), a division of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that housed the manufacturing of asbestos-containing brake linings, was exposed to raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products while working on aircraft brake linings. In response to the decedent’s estate’s product liability lawsuit against it, Goodyear moved for summary judgment on the basis that Aerospace, not Goodyear, had manufactured the asbestos-containing brake linings in question. The motion was granted and the estate appealed.
Arguments on appeal. On appeal, Goodyear again argued that the estate’s product liability must fail as a matter of law because Aerospace had manufactured the asbestos-containing brake linings. Goodyear further argued that, under the Ohio Products Liability Act, it was irrelevant which company had manufactured the brake linings because the decedent had been exposed to asbestos during the manufacturing process. According to Goodyear, the plain language of the Act required the estate to show that the product was defective when it left the control of the manufacturer, not while the product remained in the manufacturing process. The estate countered that Goodyear had manufactured the brake linings and then transferred them as finished products to Aerospace for assembly. Thus, at the time the decedent was exposed to asbestos, the asbestos-containing brake linings were finished products which had left the control of the manufacturer, according to the estate.
In granting summary judgment, the trial court had determined that there was no evidence to support the conclusion that the brake innings had left the control of Goodyear at any time during the decedent’s alleged exposure. Relying on Blakely v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (Summit C.P. No. AC 2014-07-3155 (Dec. 8, 2015)), a case that addressed the same issues and in which the court had presumed that Goodyear was the manufacturer and that Goodyear controlled both the division that had manufactured the asbestos-containing brake linings and Aerospace, the division that had assembled the brake linings for use in aircraft, the trial court in the current case agreed that when a product was still being manufactured, it could not be deemed to have left the hands of, nor the control of, the manufacturer.
Appellate ruling. Assuming without deciding that a product in the manufacturing process was, as a matter of law, still in the control of the manufacturer for purposes of liability under the Act, the court of appeals rejected the trial court’s conclusion, finding that there remained disputed issues of fact that should not have been decided by the trial court on summary judgment. Specifically, the parties disputed whether Goodyear had manufactured the brake linings and whether Goodyear controlled Aerospace. The trial court, without explanation or analysis, relied on the Blakely decision to dispose of these issues even though it had no authority to weigh the evidence and to make a determination on the disputed issues of fact. Thus, the court of appeals reversed the lower court’s decision to grant Goodyear’s summary judgment motion.
The case is No. 28620.
Attorneys: Jessica M. Bacon (Jessica M. Bacon, Attorney at Law) for Margie Taylor. Richard D. Schuster (Richard D. Schuster, Attorneys at Law) for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Goodyear Aerospace Corp.
Companies: Goodyear Aerospace Corp.; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
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