The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled recently that a Georgia man who filed the lawsuit after contracting silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by breathing silica dust, may have his day in Court.
The victim wore a safety mask and hood on the job, but he and his attorneys claim those did not protect him from injuring his lungs. They also contend that the manufacturer did not issue appropriate warnings about the dangers of using their equipment during sandblasting operations.
A Georgia trial judge had dismissed the man’s case, saying he did not have enough evidence that exposure to silica sand could cause harm and that the manufacturer and distributor did not have a duty to warn of known risks associated with sandblasting.
The Appeals Court disagreed and found that the victim had shown generally that exposure to silica sand can cause silicosis, and that the worker’s exposure on the job specifically contributed to his illness. The Court also observed that the sandblasting equipment did not contain an explicit warning that it should not be used for sandblasting, and the product descriptions even implied that they could be used for sandblasting.
In Georgia, a manufacturer’s legal responsibility to warn about product risks depends on several things: including, the type of danger involved and the foreseeability of the user’s knowledge of the danger. These issues are usually best decided by a Jury.
Another important issue in the case was whether the victim assumed the risk that he would be injured by sandblasting. A product manufacturer and distributor do not have to warn of a danger that is obvious or generally known. In this case, while the sandblaster knew that he was required to wear a mask, questions remained about whether the victim and his employer knew about the specific risks of using the defendants’ products.
Sandblasting companies, especially small employers like the company that employed the sandblaster, typically rely on manufacturers and distributors to provide accurate, complete information about their safety equipment, according to the plaintiff’s expert.
The case is Fouch v. Bicknell Supply Co.
Products liability cases can be complicated. An experienced personal injury attorney who handles product liability cases can help you understand your legal rights and options if you have suffered injuries as a result of a defective consumer or workplace product.