New Mesothelioma Trial: Tennessee Supreme Court orders retrial for DuPont worker

The Tennessee Supreme Court ordered a new trial on behalf of Evelyn Nye, surviving spouse of mesothelioma victim Hugh Todd Nye against defendant National Service Industries d/b/a North Brothers, Inc. North Brothers sold asbestos products manufactured by Owens Corning Fiberglas, Pittsburgh Corning, Johns Manville and Raybestos Manhattan to Mr. Nye's employer, DuPont of Chattanooga. The Court based its decision to grant the new trial on incorrect jury instructions given during the original trial that were based on causation issues related to the "learned intermediary" doctrine.

Motley Rice attorney John (Rett) E. Guerry III successfully argued to the Court that employers and manufacturers have a duty to warn workers of the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. The plaintiff's appellate team consisted of Rett Guerry, Ben Cunningham and Summers & Wyatt, P.C., attorney, Jimmy Rodgers.

In an opinion issued June 7, 2011, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the "learned Intermediary" or "sophisticated purchaser" defense is not applicable in a non-medical products liability action. Asbestos defendants in Tennessee can no longer deflect liability due to an employer's knowledge but rather, they must insure that those exposed to the hazardous material actually receive the warning. By a 3 -2 majority, the Court also held that the sellers of defective products may be held liable for those products manufactured by companies who are in bankruptcy and who cannot be served with civil process due to the injunctions associated with the United States Bankruptcy Code. The case will be retried in Hamilton County Circuit Court.

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