Oakland Office Wins Summary Adjudication on Failure to Warn Claims About Benzene on Preemption Grounds

Gordon & Rees client Radiator Specialty Co. won summary adjudication extinguishing any failure to warn claims, on the ground that the product containers had warning labels in compliance with Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) labeling requirements.

Radiator’s national counsel Jim Riley and Stacy Yates of Coats Rose in Houston led the charge, capitalizing on similar successes they have obtained in other jurisdictions. The case is venued in Alameda County, and Jeff Coons of the brand-new Oakland office of Gordon & Rees provided the local expertise so the client could obtain what we understand to be the first ruling of its kind in California.

In Johnson v. Armored Autogroup, Inc., plaintiff claims to have developed leukemia from occupational exposure to benzene from various products, including Radiator Specialty’s Liquid Wrench, while working as an auto mechanic in the 1960s and 1970s.  Radiator moved for summary judgment arguing that the FHSA preempted plaintiffs’ failure to warn and design defect claims, and that Radiator’s labels complied with the FHSA.

Riley argued the motion in front of Alameda Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill on March 21, 2014, and the court issued its ruling on March 27, 2014, granting summary adjudication on plaintiffs’ failure to warn claims. Judge Carvill allowed, however, plaintiffs’ design defect cause of action to go forward.

Riley, Yates and Gordon & Rees’s Oakland office continue to defend the matter and hope to report further successes soon as plaintiffs potentially most appealing causes of action have now been dismissed.