Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Opinion Date: July 14, 2021
Areas of Law: Personal Injury, Products Liability
After he was diagnosed with nasal cancer, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, alleging that they produced the lumber that his father used in his woodshop and are liable to him for damages because they failed to warn his father that wood dust causes cancer. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, concluding that during the exposure period, defendants did not have a duty to warn the plaintiff’s father that wood dust causes cancer because that fact was not known at the time as part of the “state of the art,” i.e., the level of knowledge reached.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court properly determined from the record that the state of the art did not indicate that wood dust causes cancer until 1995, a few years after the exposure period at issue ended, and thus defendants had no duty to warn plaintiff’s father of any risk of cancer during that period. The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that the district court established an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) litmus test to the exclusion of other relevant evidence. Rather, the district court appropriately identified and relied on the state of the art as represented by studies collected and evaluated by experts in the field.
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