On Feb. 26, an appellate court in New York dismissed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, Ltd. (Ford UK), a wholly owned division of the U.S.-based Ford Motor Company (Ford USA) that operates in the United Kingdom. At the heart of the decision was the question of whether New York held jurisdiction over Ford UK – the answer to which the New York appellate court decided was, No.
The original lawsuit was brought by Raymond Finerty, who worked as a former mechanic in Ireland for a number of years. Since that time, Finerty has developed peritoneal malignant mesothelioma, which he attributes to his work with asbestos brake pads manufactured and distributed by Ford. In addition to Ford UK, Finerty has named Ford USA and Abex Corporation as defendants.
According to the order issued by the New York appellate court, although Finerty developed mesothelioma in New York, he “failed to establish that Ford UK expected or should reasonably have expected that his exposure to asbestos in Ireland would have consequences in New York.” Ford UK had originally asked for a summary judgment to dismiss the case, which the trial court rejected, leading to the appeal.
Although New York courts may not have jurisdiction over Ford UK, the appellate court ruled that Finerty may nonetheless continue his suit against Ford USA. In the order, the court argued that “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,” suggesting also that Ford USA could be liable for failing to warn users about the dangers of asbestos brakes.
Finerty was first diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, and subsequently brought suit against Ford and Abex Corp., among others, in 2010. Lawyers for Finerty have expressed their hope that the lengthy case will finally go to trial within the next few months.