ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS LEAD ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES
W. RUSSELL SIPES MICHAEL A. BERGIN
Laudig George Rutherford & Sipes JULIA BLACKWELL GELINAS
Indianapolis, Indiana DANIEL M. LONG
Locke Reynolds LLP
RAMONA and LEE STEGEMOLLER, ) ) Appellants (Plaintiffs Below ), ) Cause No. 49S02-0111-CV-593 ) in the Supreme Court v. ) ) ACandS, INC., et al., ) Cause No. 49A02-0006-CV-390
We granted transfer, 761 N.E.2d 423 (Ind. 2001), and now hold that she
has standing as a bystander under the Act.
Dague v. Piper Aircraft Corp., 275 Ind. 520, 528, 418 N.E.2d 207,
212 (1981), we determined that it was clear the legislature intended that the
[A]ct govern all product liability actions, whether the theory of liability is negligence
or strict liability in tort. This conclusion has particular support in asbestos-related
actions. Within the Act is Ind. Code Ann. § 34-20-3-2 (West 1999),
which specifically addresses the time frames for bringing such claims, including those based
on disease resulting from asbestos exposure.
The manufacturers and other defendants would have us hold that Mrs. Stegemoller lacks
standing under the Act and cannot otherwise maintain a negligence claim because the
Act provides the sole and exclusive remedy for personal injuries allegedly caused by
a product. (Appellees Joint Br. at 2-3.) They say the claim
falls outside the Act because Mrs. Stegemoller was not in the vicinity of
the product. They reason that the product at issue is insulation material
that contains asbestos, not residue such as fibers from that material, and that
Mrs. Stegemoller was not in the vicinity of the industrial jobsite where the
insulation material was used.
This is too narrow a view. The normal, expected use of asbestos
products entails contact with its migrating and potentially harmful residue. We conclude
that divorcing the underlying product from fibers or other residue it may discharge
is not consistent with the Act.
The manufacturers further argue that Mrs. Stegemoller was not in the products vicinity
during its reasonably expected use. (Appellees Joint Br. at 5-6.) Again,
their reading is too restrictive. In
Butler v. City of Peru, 733
N.E.2d 912, 914, 919 (Ind. 2000), we held that a maintenance worker who
was electrocuted while trying to restore power to an electrical outlet was a
user or consumer as defined in the Act. Implicit in that holding
was the assumption that maintenance may be part of a products reasonably expected
The same is true of customary clean-up activities. Here, the reasonably expected
use of asbestos products encompasses the cleansing of asbestos residue from ones person
and clothing at the end of the workday.
We therefore hold, taking into account the nature of asbestos products, that Mrs.
Stegemoller has a cognizable claim as a bystander under the Act.
Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.