South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Strict Liability for Supplier of Material Linked to Workers' Disease
Description Wisconsin high court held that a supplier of silica sand to a foundry was not strictly liable for silicosis suffered by workers exposed to silica dust. The sand posed no danger as delivered to the foundry; the danger was created by the use of the sand in production at the foundry.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability; Components; Substantial Change; Silicosis
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts From 1980 to 1996, Badger Mining supplied 99% pure silica sand to Neenah Foundry, which mixed the sand with other materials to create molds for iron castings, such as manhole covers. The castings are usually broken, reground, and the materials reused. Haase worked for years at Neenah, where he was often in a dusty environment. In retirement, he was diagnosed with silicosis, a lung disease caused by prolonged inhaling of silica particles. He sued Badger for products liability. The lower courts dismissed Haase's strict liability claim. He appealed.

Affirmed. Expert testimony showed that when Badger delivered the sand it was too large to be inhaled. It was the processes at Neenah that crushed the sand into dust that caused the problem. The sand underwent a substantial change after leaving the supplier's possession, so Badger is not strictly liable for silicosis that results from exposure to sand dust. The Restatement (Third) of Torts, providing for strict liability of commercial sellers of product components for harm caused by products into which the components are integrated, did not apply to impose strict liability because the silica sand was not a component part. It was not integrated into finished products, but was instead used to create molds for foundry iron products. The sand did not cause the metal castings to be defective, and no defect in the metal castings caused silicosis.

Citation Haase v. Badger Mining, 682 N.W.2d 389 (Sup. Ct., Wisc., 2004)

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