Ford Upends $3.4M Asbestos Award to Mechanic’s Wife

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By Peter Hayes

Ford Motor Co. will have another chance to defend claims that the wife of a mechanic was exposed to asbestos brought home on his work clothes, after a Tennessee appeals court tossed a $3.4 million verdict ( Stockton v. Ford Motor Co. , 2017 BL 159850, Tenn. Ct. App., No. W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV, 5/12/17 ).

The jury should have been instructed to decide whether Ford’s brakes were unreasonably dangerous or defective and whether the injury to Joyce Stockton was reasonably foreseeable, the court said.

Stockton alleges that her exposure to asbestos while laundering her husband’s clothing caused her to develop mesothelioma.

The complaint asserts that Ford’s brake products, which contained asbestos, were unreasonably dangerous or defective and that Ford had a duty to warn Mr. Stockton so that he could have protected his wife from exposure.

Judge Kenny Armstrong wrote the opinion, joined by Judge D. Michael Swiney. Judge J. Steven Stafford dissented in part, saying the appeals court should first determine whether Ford had a duty.

Harry Douglas Nichol in Knoxville, Tenn., Jonathan Ruckdeschel in Ellicott City, Md., and Shrader & Assoc. in Houston represented Joyce and Ronnie Stockton.

Marcum & Petroff, P.C., in Huntsville, Tenn., and O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Washington represented Ford.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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