The reconstruction of the fact record is critical in product liability cases.
In an asbestos exposure case brought before a state court in South Carolina, plaintiff’s alleged that the North American manufacturer of commercial and residential building materials had previously sold asbestos cement corrugated board and sheets during the 1950s and 1960s.
Factual research is especially critical in product liability cases where the historical manufacture and distribution of products might be contested, or the potential hazards of specific products (e.g., asbestos, chemicals, pesticides, or radioactive materials) depend on actual pathway of exposure. With an eye to this challenge, outside counsel for the building materials company engaged HAI | Legal to investigate what products the company had actually sold throughout the southeastern United States during the period of alleged exposure.
Finding the Facts
HAI | Legal researchers reviewed a broad range of publications including not only company annual reports and trade journal articles, but also product catalogs, patent applications, and advertisements in local and regional newspapers. HAI | Legal also undertook a comprehensive review of special architecture and building product trade catalogs, known as Sweet’s Catalogs, showing in detail what siding products the predecessor firm (and its competitors) had manufactured during the time period of interest. HAI | Legal’s historical research clearly demonstrated that the company had never made or marketed the siding in question and that another firm was the likely producer and distributor of the contested product.
HAI produced an expert report summarizing our conclusions and later defended them in court, where the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the building materials company. Counsel for the company acknowledged HAI | Legal for building an effective “weight of historical evidence” argument that helped convince the jury and win the case.