Judge Eduardo Robreno, the judge who oversees the multidistrict maritime asbestos litigation in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (MDL 875), recently held a ship is not a product and, therefore, not subject to liability under traditional product liability and strict liability principles. Mack v. General Electric Company, MDL-875, No. 2:100-78940-ER, 2012 WL 4717918 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 3, 2012). Judge Robreno held that navy shipbuilders, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman Shipbuilding and Todd Pacific Shipyards were not "product manufacturers" under maritime law. The Court explained the role of a shipbuilder is more akin to a provider of service than to a manufacturer or supplier of a product.
In holding a ship was not a product, Judge Robreno emphasized that his decision is faithful to the goals of maritime law, namely to protect workers from the perils of the sea and to protect maritime commercial activity and ship building.