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Ramos v. Brenntag Specialties, Inc.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division

March 21, 2014

FLAVIO RAMOS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
BRENNTAG SPECIALTIES, INC., et al., Defendants and Respondents.

[REVIEW GRANTED BY CAL. SUPREME COURT]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC449958 Amy D. Hogue, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Metzger Law Group, Raphael Metzger, Kenneth A. Holdren; Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett and Brian P. Barrow for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Lynberg & Watkins, Ruth Segal and Rosemary Do for Defendant and Respondent Porter Warner Industries.

Archer Norris, W. Eric Blumhardt, Tiffany J. Gates and Kevin L. Place for Defendants and Respondents P-G Industries, Inc. and The Pryor-Giggey Company.

Snider, Diehl & Rasmussen, Stephen C. Snider and Trenton M. Diehl for Defendant and Respondent J.R. Simplot Company.

Gordon & Rees, Roger Mansukhani and Brandon D. Saxon for Defendant and Respondent Laguna Clay Company.

Schaffer, Lax, McNaughton & Chen, Jill A. Franklin and Yaron F. Dunkel for Defendant and Respondent Scott Sales Co.

Chuck Birkett Tsoong, Stephen S. Chuck, Tiffany M. Birkett and Victoria J. Tsoong for Defendant and Respondent Resource Building Materials.

Gordon & Rees, P. Gerhardt Zacher and Matthew P. Nugent for Defendants and Respondents Alcoa Inc. and Schorr Metals, Inc.

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Bates Winter & Cameron, David L. Winter and Christopher R. Robyn for Defendant and Respondent Southwire Company.

K & L Gates and Michele Barnes for Defendant and Respondent Alcoa Inc.

McGuire Woods and Diane Flannery for Defendant and Respondent Century Kentucky, Inc.

Koletsky, Mancini, Feldman & Morrow and Susan L. Caldwell for Defendant and Respondent TST, Inc.

Hurrell Cantrall, Thomas C. Hurrell and Melinda Cantrall for Defendants and Respondents, United States Gypsum Co. and Westside Building Material Corp.

OPINION

MANELLA, J.

In the underlying action, appellants Flavio Ramos and his wife asserted claims against respondents for negligence, negligence per se, strict liability, and loss of consortium, alleging that Ramos’s exposure to their products during his employment at a metal foundry caused his pulmonary fibrosis.[1] Respondents demurrered to the claims on the ground that they failed under the component parts doctrine, as applied in Maxton v. Western States Metals (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 81 [136 Cal.Rptr.3d 630] (Maxton). Relying on Maxton, the trial court sustained respondents’ demurrer without leave to amend and thereafter entered a judgment of dismissal.

With the exception of appellants’ claim for negligence per se, we conclude that the complaint states viable claims, and we respectfully disagree with the holding in Maxton. As we explain, the component parts doctrine does not shield a product supplier from liability when a party alleges that he suffered direct injury from using the supplier’s product as the supplier specifically intended. We therefore affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions to the trial court to enter a new order overruling respondents’ demurrers to appellants’ claims, with the exception of the claim for negligence per se.

RELEVANT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 19, 2010, appellants initiated the underlying action. Their second amended complaint (SAC) contained claims against respondents for

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negligence, negligence per se, strict liability based on a failure to warn and design defects, fraudulent concealment, breach of implied warranties, and loss of consortium.

The SAC alleged that from 1972 to 1978 and from 1981 to 2009, Ramos worked as a mold maker, machine operator, and laborer for Supreme Casting & Pattern, Inc. (Supreme), which manufactured metal parts through “a foundry and fabrication process.”[2] While employed by Supreme, Ramos worked “with and around” metals, plaster and minerals that respondents supplied to Supreme. Respondents Alcoa Inc., Schorr Metals, Inc., Southwire Company, Century Kentucky, Inc. and TST, Inc. (metal suppliers) provided metal products, which were melted in furnaces to form metal castings. The casting process used molds created from plaster, sand, limestone and marble supplied by the remaining respondents, United States Gypsum Co., Westside Building Material Co., Porter Warner Industries, LLC., Resource Building Materials, P-G Industries, Inc., The Pryor-Giggey Company, J.R. Simplot Company, Laguna Clay Company, and Scott Sales Co. (mold material suppliers).[3] According to the SAC, Ramos developed interstitial pulmonary fibrosis as the result of his exposure to, inter alia, fumes from the molten metal and dust from the plaster, sand, limestone and marble.

Respondents sought judgment on the pleadings regarding the SAC, contending that appellants’ claims failed under Maxton, which addressed similar claims under circumstances resembling those alleged in the SAC.[4] There, the plaintiff asserted claims for negligence, negligence per se, strict liability, fraudulent concealment, and breach of implied warranties against several defendants who had supplied metal products to his employer. (Maxton, supra, 203 Cal.App.4th at pp. 85-86.) The operative complaint alleged that the plaintiff, while employed as a laborer, “‘worked with and around’” those metal products, which were cut, ground, sandblasted, welded, and brazed during his employer’s manufacturing process. (Id. at p. 86.) The complaint further alleged that the suppliers failed to disclose the hazards of their products to the plaintiff, who developed interstitial pulmonary fibrosis due to his exposure to metallic fumes and dust from the products. (Ibid.)

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The suppliers filed demurrers and a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that the plaintiffs’ claims failed under the so-called “component parts doctrine.” (Maxton, supra, 203 Cal.App.4th at p. 88.) The trial court agreed, and ruled in the suppliers’ favor without affording the plaintiff leave to amend his complaint. (Id. at p. 95.) In affirming the judgment of dismissal, the appellate court placed special emphasis on the discussion of the component parts doctrine in Artiglio v. General Electric. Co. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 830, 838-839 [71 Cal.Rptr.2d 817] (Artiglio). The appellate court concluded that the doctrine, as set forth in Artiglio, shielded the suppliers from liability to the plaintiff arising from the use of their metal products in the manufacturing process. (Maxton, supra, at pp. 88-95 & fn. 3.)

In the instant action, the trial court granted judgment on the pleadings regarding the SAC with leave to amend, and advised appellants that to state causes of action, they must “plead around... Artiglio, ” as interpreted in Maxton. After appellants filed their third amended complaint, respondents asserted demurrers based on Maxton, which the court sustained with leave to amend. When appellants filed their fourth amended complaint (FAC), respondents again demurred on the basis of Maxton. The court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend, and entered a joint judgment of dismissal in favor of respondents. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Appellants maintain the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrers to the FAC. Their principal contention is that the injuries alleged in the FAC fall outside the component parts doctrine. They assert that the doctrine, when applicable, relieves a supplier of component parts from liability for injuries arising from an end product into which the supplier’s parts have been integrated. Because the FAC alleges that Ramos’s injuries resulted from the direct and intended use of respondents’ products, and not from injuries ...


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