On June 30, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its decision in Fowler v. Akzo Nobel Chemicals, Inc., in which NJCJI jointly participated as amicus curiae with the United States Chamber of Commerce.
The Court held that an asbestos manufacturer or supplier that places insufficient warnings on asbestos bags used in the workplace has breached its duty to warn the worker, regardless of whether it provided the employer with correct supplemental information intended to reach the employees. From a practical perspective, this means that the totality of a manufacturer or supplier’s efforts to communicate risk and safety information, such as flyers for an employer to hang in the workplace, are insufficient. This decision overlooks the fact that workers derive a significant benefit from manufacturer or supplier educational materials, especially when such materials are conveyed to them through their employer. Despite this reality, the majority of the Court elevated the importance of warnings on product packaging that an employee could (but will not necessarily) read, regardless of the extent of other education provided by the manufacturer or supplier. This holding could disincentivize an array of strategies used by manufacturers and suppliers to communicate product safety risks to employers who purchase their products.
NJCJI and the Chamber were represented by Philip S. Goldberg, Esq., Mark A. Behrens, Esq., and Cary Silverman, Esq., at Shook, Hardy, and Bacon L.L.P. NJCJI thanks Phil, Mark, and Carey for their hard work and expertise on an outstanding brief.