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Beshada v. Johns-Manville Prods. Corp.

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20533
Nos. No. A-162/163/175, 447 A.2d 539/90 N.J. 191, (N.J., 07/07/1982)

Reversing the trial court, the New Jersey Supreme Court holds that respondents in a strict liability action for failure to warn of the health hazards of asbestos exposure may not use a state-of-the-art defense. The court rejects the argument of manufacturers and distributors that the knowledge imputed to respondents in the strict liability cases is rebuttable by proving that the health hazards were not scientifically discoverable at the time the products were manufactured. The court holds that as culpability is irrelevant in strict liability, knowledge is imputed regardless of the state of scientific knowledge at the time the products were manufactured. The only issue to resolve at trial is whether a warning would have made the product safer without reducing the product's utility. The court observes that strict liability for failure to warn of undiscoverable dangers advances the risk-spreading goals of strict liability and eliminates the need to raise at trial the confusing issue of what is scientifically discoverable.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (19 pp. $3.00, ELR Order No. C-1299).

Counsel for Appellants
Alan M. Darnell, Karen Ann Kubulak, Christopher M. Placitella
Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer
P.O. Box 10, Woodbridge NJ 07095
(201) 636-8000

Bryan D. Garruto
Heilbrunn, Finkelstein, Heilbrunn, Garruto & Galex
201 Highway 516, Old Bridge NJ 08857
(201) 679-8000

Ronald B. Grayzel
Levinson, Conover, Axelrod & Wheaton
98 James St., Edison NJ 08817
(201) 494-2727

Counsel for Respondents
David R. Gross, David J. Novack, Sebastian M. Lombardi
Budd, Larner, Kent, Gross, Picillo & Rosenbaum
33 Washington St., Newark NJ 07102
(201) 622-7400

Kathleen F. Moran
Morgan, Melhuish, Monaghan & Spielvogel
301 S. Livingston Ave., Livingston NJ 07039
(201) 994-2500

Andrew T. Berry, Michael A. Tanenbaum
McCarter & English
550 Broad St., Newark NJ 07102
(201) 622-4444

Pashman, J.