Michigan Supreme Court Declines to Expand Landowner Liability for "Take Home" Asbestos Exposure

Michigan Supreme Court Declines to Expand Landowner Liability for "Take Home" Asbestos Exposure

7/25/2007
In a crucial decision interpreting Michigan negligence law, the Michigan Supreme Court has held that Ford Motor Company was not liable for the mesothelioma death of a woman whose family claimed that she was exposed to asbestos allegedly carried home on her stepfather's clothes when he worked in the 1950s and 60s for an independent contractor hired to perform work at Ford's Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan. The case was Miller v Ford Motor Company, No. 131517, issued on July 25, 2007. Ford was represented in the Michigan Supreme Court by Dickinson Wright attorneys Kathleen A. Lang and Phillip J. DeRosier, Robert W. Powell of Ford's Office of General Counsel, and Texas attorney Craig A. Morgan. Miller was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1999, and subsequently died in September 2000. A Texas jury awarded Miller's family $9.5 million for her death. On appeal, the Texas Court of Appeals asked the Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether, under Michigan law, Ford owed Miller a duty to protect her from secondary exposure to asbestos. After accepting the request to decide the issue, the Michigan Supreme Court held that Ford did not owe Miller a duty of care because she had never been on or near Ford's property and there was no other relationship between Miller and Ford. The Court further concluded that imposing a duty on Ford under the circumstances would impose an "extraordinarily onerous and unworkable burden," and that "the risk of 'take home' asbestos exposure was, in all likelihood, not foreseeable" at the time Miller's stepfather worked at Ford's plant. For more information, the Michigan Supreme Court's opinion in Miller v Ford Motor Company, No. 131517, is available at:

Supreme Court Opinion.pdf

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