Pfizer Not ‘Apparent Manufacturer' of Asbestos Cement

Toxics Law Reporter™ delivers the most comprehensive, authoritative, and objective coverage of significant developments in toxic tort, hazardous waste, and related insurance litigation, all with...

By Peter Hayes

June 2 — Pfizer Inc. isn't liable as an “apparent manufacturer” of Insulag, an asbestos-containing cement made by a company it acquired, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled ( Stein v. Pfizer Inc., 2016 BL 171782, Md. Ct. Spec. App., No. 1231/14, 5/31/16 ).

The estate of a worker who died of mesothelioma can't pursue a product liability suit against Pfizer, but is instead limited to claims in a bankruptcy trust in the Southern District of New York, the court said.

Quigley Inc. manufactured and sold Insulag to Bethlehem Steel Corp. before and after Quigley became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pfizer.

Carl Stein worked at Bethlehem Steel, where he was allegedly exposed to asbestos.

Stein's estate sued Pfizer, alleging it was an “apparent manufacturer” of Insulag.

The estate alleged that Pfizer, by placing its logo on Insulag packaging and on advertisements, “held itself out to consumers as a manufacturer of Insulag.”

Under the objective test applied by most states, the court said the claim fails because Bethlehem Steel knew, at all relevant times, that it was purchasing Insulag from Quigley, not Pfizer.

Under the actual reliance test, Stein's failure to mention Insulag or Pfizer in his deposition testimony shows no reliance by the user, the court said.

“Nor was any evidence adduced that Bethlehem Steel actually relied upon Pfizer's trademark, reputation, or assurances of quality, in deciding to purchase Insulag,” the court said.

Judge Peter B. Krauser wrote the opinion, joined by Judges Kathryn Grill Graeff and Christopher B. Kehoe.

Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos P.C. in Baltimore represented the estate of Carl Stein.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York represents Pfizer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes at phayes@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com and Jeffrey D. Koelemay at jkoelemay@bna.com