A New York appellate court has ruled that a former mechanic in Ireland can sue Ford Motor Co in the US courts because the company’s “substantial role” in the design of car parts distributed by its UK subsidiary.
The appellate panel dismissed Ford’s UK subsidiary, the Ford Motor Co Ltd, from the case for lack of jurisdiction. But it ruled that there were “issues of fact” about whether Ford USA can be held liable in the case brought by Raymond Finerty, a US resident who claimed his work in Ireland from the 1960s to the 1980s with automotive parts, including car brakes, caused him to develop the asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
The ruling affirms a lower court’s decision in October denying Ford USA’s summary judgment motion, and reverses that court’s decision denying its UK subsidiary’s motion to dismiss the suit.
“The record demonstrates that Ford USA acted as the global guardian of the Ford brand, having a substantial role in the design, development, and use of the auto parts distributed by Ford UK, with the apparent goal of the complete standardisation of all products worldwide that carried the signature Ford logo,” the panel said in its ruling.
“Thus, issues of fact exist whether Ford USA may be held directly liable as a result of its role in facilitating the distribution of the asbestos-containing auto parts on the ground that it was ‘in the best position to exert pressure for the improved safety of products’ or to warn the end users of these auto parts of the hazards they presented,” the court said.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision, and it could have wide-ranging effects because the court found that Ford can be responsible for exposing people to its products around the world,” said Mr Finerty’s lawyer, Amber R Long.