Kinsman v. Unocal Asbestos case: Oil Industry Reports
Read the discussion in the Kinsman v. Unocal asbestos case, where oil industry reports about the health hazards of asbestos are discussed.
On the other hand, the various reports issued to the oil industry in the 1930’s and 1940’s, from which Unocal obtained its knowledge, were not secret or classified, and there was a limited public knowledge about the health hazards of asbestos dust.
Unocal further points to the jury’s finding that the 85 percent of the liability for Kinsman’s injury was attributable to “all others,” and contends that that the jury implicitly found other independent contractors at fault for his injury.
It conjectures that the jury implicitly found that Unocal was negligent in its failure to properly supervise and monitor these independent contractors, which under the Privette doctrine could not serve as a basis of liability. Kinsman contends to the contrary that the “all others” refers to asbestos manufacturers and related entities. It is not clear from the record before us which contention is correct.
In short, a properly instructed jury may have concluded, based on the record before us, that the contractors knew or should have known about the airborne asbestos hazard, which would have meant a verdict in Unocal’s favor.
But the evidence does not compel that conclusion. Because the evidence is capable of inferences in both Kinsman’s and Unocal’s favor, and because the concealed hazards issue was never properly submitted to the jury, it is appropriate to reverse the judgment and to remand for a new trial on that issue.
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