Iowa Court Finds Navistar, Inc. Does Not Owe A Duty For Replacement Parts
CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.
On April 22, 2015, an Iowa trial court granted summary judgment for Navistar, Inc., finding that the vehicle manufacturer did not owe a duty to warn with respect to safe use of replacement vehicle component parts manufactured and sold by others. This case arises out of Plaintiff’s claim that David Foote suffered injuries as a result of being exposed to asbestos-containing products.
The plaintiff worked in various occupations, including as a mechanic, during which he did brake, clutch and engine work on automobiles and heavy duty trucks. He testified that he used compressed air to blow out debris when removing old brakes and that he sometimes filed or ground the replacement brake linings. He identified working on International (Navistar) vehicles, amongst various others.
The plaintiff was not able to say that he removed the factory original brakes from any International vehicle. He also could not identify the manufacturer of any brakes he removed. He could identify the replacement parts he used on these vehicles and they were supplied by other manufacturers, some of which were defendants in the case.
Judge Richard Davidson of the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County found that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the plaintiff was exposed to Navistar products inasmuch as he could not identify removing factory original equipment brakes. The court also found that plaintiff had not demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact that the plaintiff worked with replacement parts supplied by the defendants.
Plaintiff argued that the lack of product identification was not fatal to the failure to warn claim because vehicle manufacturers had a duty to warn about proper use of replacement parts, whether or not the vehicle manufacturer supplied them. Plaintiff argued that it was reasonably foreseeable that customers would use asbestos-containing replacement brakes made and sold by other companies, and that the vehicle manufacturers had a duty to warn of these dangers and were negligent in carrying out this duty. The court rejected this argument, finding that, "a plaintiff in a products liability case must prove that the injury-causing product was a product manufactured or supplied by the defendant." Court Order re Navistar, p.8 (citations omitted). The court found that, and that a vehicle manufacturer does not have a duty to warn about potential dangers associated with a replacement part made by someone else.
Plaintiff was represented by Jay Stuemke and Kevin Paul of Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett in Dallas.
Navistar was represented by David Lutz and Jesse Sater of Bowman and Brooke LLP in Minneapolis.