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December 2021

Saxon Guerriere Obtains Summary Judgment and Precedent-Setting Decision in North Carolina Duty to Warn Matter

Dallas Partner Saxon Guerriere obtained summary judgment in a personal injury/toxic tort case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against the firm's client, a major manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks, for which Guerriere acts as national counsel. With the ruling, new precedent was set in North Carolina on the duty to warn for replacement parts used in an automotive setting. Guerriere took lead argument on behalf of all defendants on the issue in front of Chief United States District Judge Martin Reidinger.

The plaintiffs alleged that defendants failed to warn of the dangers of asbestos-containing replacement parts used in the maintenance and repair of heavy-duty trucks and trailers while the plaintiff was a mechanic at various locations, including Davis Oil Company in Statesville, North Carolina from 1979 to 1994. The plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 58 and alleged his disease was caused by his exposure to asbestos-containing products he encountered during his occupational mechanic work.

After a four-hour oral argument, the court issued a written opinion granting various defendants’ motions for summary judgment, including that of the client, reasoning that under North Carolina law a truck assembler cannot be liable for a defective replacement part that it did not sell or manufacture. Further, the court held that North Carolina does not recognize a “design, specification, or recommendation” exception to its requirement that a plaintiff’s injury be caused by a defendant’s own asbestos-containing product. Going further, the opinion clarified that “Federal courts within North Carolina, including this Court, have reasoned that Lohrmann’s requirement of proof of evidence to a specific product precludes imposing liability based solely on exposure to asbestos products provided by third parties.”

This was an issue of first impression in North Carolina as it relates to the duty to warn for allegedly defective automotive replacement parts.  Guerriere received invaluable assistance from local counsel, Amy Drayton at Garrity & Gossage, and his NCC paralegal, Allison Wilkinson

Guerriere practices in the areas of Environmental/Toxic Tort, Tort & Product Liability, and Construction. Guerriere has acted as trial counsel in cases from Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinois to Houston, Texas, to Wilmington, Delaware. He has also acted as local counsel in New Mexico for various clients, and serves as national coordinating counsel on the firm's environmental and toxic tort litigation team.

P. Saxon Guerriere