After an initial ruling against three men killed from asbestos from industrial brakes, a Maryland asbestos attorney appealed to the Court of Appeals for a reassessment of the case.
The makers of the industrial brakes wanted the Court of Appeals to side with the original ruling of the lower court, which came before the first trial began. The Baltimore City Circuit Judge Carol E. Smith said that the families did not have sufficient proof to determine that their deceased relatives’ deadly asbestos diseases were caused from them working beneath the industrial brakes. Concerning the Court of Appeals and one judge in particular, Court of Appeals Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., was the issue of “market share liability,” which brings claims against several possibly at fault parties since a single defendant cannot be pinpointed. According to Judge Murphy, “Market-share liability … is not something we [judges] should be doing much with.”
Judge Murphy still left the issue up to individual cases. If the jury of such a case finds that there was a “statistical probability” that the defendant was at fault, then they could rule in the plaintiff’s favor, but he did not comment on this specific case as to whether the plaintiffs had such evidence. The three men died from working at the Sparrow’s Point mill of the Bethlehem Steel Corp. Their jobs required them to work beneath a crane outfitted with the brakes in question that allegedly rained asbestos dust onto the men. By inhaling this dust, they eventually developed lung cancers that resulted in their deaths. Bringing charges against brake manufacturers is not unknown to Maryland courts. In 2007, brake manufacturer General Electric Co. had to pay three families a total of $3.97 million in damages in a Baltimore court. The deceased workers were William H. Johnson, who worked at the plant from 1959 to 1990; William A. Reiter, who worked at the mill from the 1960s through the 1980s; and Harold R. Williams, who worked at the mill from about 1964 to 1993. The high court did not indicate when it will decide the case.