Sarah O’Leary Quoted on Apparent Manufacturer Decision in New York Asbestos Litigation


Governo Law Firm attorney Sarah O'Leary was quoted in an article reporting on the defense of asbestos litigation, including jurisdictional and product liability defenses published on March 3rd in Law360. The article, Ford Ruling Gives Plaintiffs Road Map To Sue Global Cos., analyzes the New York Court of Appeals decision in Raymond Finerty et al. v. Abex Corp. et al., case number 190187/10 14344 14343, in the Supreme Court of New York Appellate Division, First Department. The Finerty opinion involved the appeal of Judge Heitler's decision denying summary judgment to Ford Motor Co. USA in an asbestos case based on lack of product identification and based on lack of jurisdiction for Ford's UK subsidiary. Raymond Finerty, an Irish emigree with peritoneal mesothelioma, alleged that his mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure while he was working on Ford tractors and vehicles in Ireland. The appeals court reversed Judge Heitler's ruling as to Ford UK, finding that Ford would not have expected to answer in a New York court for the consequences of its actions in Ireland. The appeals court affirmed the denial of Ford USA's motion of summary judgment stating that "the record demonstrates that Ford USA acted as the global guardian of the Ford brand," based on the argument that Ford exercised control over the universal design of Ford products and Ford components and was in the best position to implement product safety improvements and to warn end users.

Ms. O'Leary explained that the New York appellate court was evaluating many of the concepts embodied in the apparent manufacturer doctrine, without using the words "apparent manufacturer." O'Leary was quoted as saying "it would be putting a heavy burden on American industry to ask it to ensure product safety around the globe."

Plaintiff counsel commented favorably on the ruling, explaining that transnational corporations should have legal responsibility for products that are sold with their design input and oversight overseas. If this ruling stands after further appeal, the next step will be to determine whether to apply Ireland or New York law in adjudicating the plaintiff's case.

The article can be found at