Background: TLG has scheduled another meeting with the GC owners to further discuss the risks and liabilities of tort law. This meeting will focus specifically on product liability.
Winnie and Ralph asked you to participate in the GC meeting and to be prepared to discuss specific product liability risks related to GC’s use and resale of EPI cleaning products.
Instructions: To prepare, review product liability law, product liability claims, and parties who can be sued in product liability cases using the assigned materials and Instructor Notes.
Write a summary report addressing the following questions to use as a basis for discussion in the GC meeting with TLG and to educate GC owners about potential risks and liabilities under product liability law.
A. Analyze and explain specifically how and why GC could face risks under product liability for use of EPI cleaning products to clean GC clients’ commercial property.
B. Analyze and explain specifically how and why GC could face risks under product liability for reselling EPI cleaning products directly to customers from its public place of business.
Prepare the summary in a report, addressed to Winnie and Ralph, to be used in discussion with the GC owners.
The report should address the questions in the Instructions above. Follow the format below.
TO: Winnie James, Ralph Anders
FROM: (your name)
RE: Green Clean Product Liability
Write in correct, complete sentences in paragraph format.
Warranties and Products Liability
Liriano v. Hobart Corp. 92 N.Y.2d 232 (1998) Court of Appeals of the State of New York (failure to adequately warn, defective and negligent design)
In 1961, Liriano, a 17 year-old employee in the meat department at Super Associated grocery store (Super), was injured on the job while feeding meat into a commercial meat grinder whose safety guard had been removed. His right hand and lower forearm were amputated.
The meat grinder was manufactured and sold by Hobart Corporation (Hobart) with an affixed safety guard that prevented the user’s hands from coming into contact with the grinder. No warnings were on the machine or otherwise provided to state it was dangerous to operate the machine without the safety guard in place. Subsequently, Hobart became aware that a significant number of purchasers of its meat grinders had removed the safety guards; in 1962, Hobart began issuing warnings on its meat grinders concerning removal of the safety guard.
At trial, Super conceded the safety guard was intact at the time it acquired the grinder and that the guard was removed while in its possession. It is further conceded that Hobart actually knew, before the accident, that removals of this sort were occurring and that use of the machine without the safety guard was highly dangerous.
Liriano sued Hobart for negligence and strict product liability for defective product design and failure to warn. The case was removed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Super was impleaded as a third-party defendant, seeking indemnification and/or contribution.
The District Court dismissed all of Liriano’s claims except those based on failure to warn. The trial court ruled failure to warn was the proximate cause of Liriano’s injuries and apportioned liability 5% to Hobart and 95% to Super. On partial retrial, Liriano was assigned 33 1/3% of the responsibility.
Hobart and Super appealed, arguing that they had no duty to warn, as a matter of law, and that the case should have been decided in their favor.
The appellate court agreed, essentially, with the rationale of the lower courts on the issues of Hobart’s and Super’s liability.
The Court discussed the responsibility to warn of inherent dangers. The Court declared, “A manufacturer who places a defective product on the market that causes injury may be liable for the ensuing injuries.***A product may be defective when it contains a manufacturing flaw, is defectively designed or is not accompanied by adequate warnings for the use of the product.***A manufacturer has a duty to warn against latent dangers resulting from foreseeable uses of its product of which it knew or should have known.***A manufacturer also has a duty to warn of the danger of unintended uses of a product provided these uses are reasonably foreseeable.”
The Court further reasoned, “A manufacturer is not liable for injuries caused by substantial alterations to the product by a third party that render the product defective or unsafe.***Where, however, a product is purposefully manufactured to permit its use without a safety feature, a plaintiff may recover for injuries suffered as a result of removing the safety feature.”
Furthermore, the Court stated, “…Unlike design decisions that involve the consideration of many interdependent factors, the inquiry in a duty to warn case is much more limited, focusing principally on the foreseeability of the risk and the adequacy and effectiveness of any warning. The burden of placing a warning on a product is less costly than designing a perfectly safe, tamper-resistant product. Thus, although it is virtually impossible to design a product to forestall all future risk-enhancing modifications that could occur after the sale, it is neither infeasible nor onerous, in some cases, to warn of the dangers of foreseeable modifications that pose the risk of injury.”
Manufacturer liability may exist under a failure-to-warn theory in cases in which the substantial modification defense would preclude liability under a design defect theory.
Daniell v. Ford Motor Company 581 F.Supp. 728 (1984) United States District Court, D. New Mexico (gross consumer misuse, unforeseeable misuse)
Plaintiff Daniell locked herself inside the trunk of a 1973 Ford automobile in an attempt to commit suicide; she remained in the trunk for 9 days being unable to open the trunk lid until she was rescued.
Daniell sued Ford to recover damages for psychological and physical injuries arising from the incident. She contends that the automobile had a design defect in that the trunk lock or latch did not have an internal release or opening mechanism. She also maintains that the manufacturer is liable based on a failure to warn of this condition. Plaintiff argued several theories for recovery: (1) strict products liability under § 402A of the Restatement 2d of Torts (1965), (2) negligence, and (3) breach of express warranty and implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.
The Court addressed the plaintiff’s claims and reasoned, “The overriding factor barring plaintiff’s recovery is that she intentionally sought to end her life by crawling into an automobile trunk from which she could not escape. This is not a case where a person inadvertently became trapped inside an automobile trunk. The plaintiff was aware of the natural and probable consequences of her perilous conduct…Plaintiff, not the manufacturer of the vehicle, is responsible for this unfortunate occurrence.”
Further, the Court declared, “A manufacturer will be liable for a design defect only where the condition of the product is unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer. Under strict products liability or negligence, a manufacturer has a duty to consider only those risks of injury which are foreseeable. A risk is not foreseeable by a manufacturer where a product is used in a manner which could not reasonably be anticipated by the manufacturer and that use is the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff’s use of the automobile and injury are not foreseeable by the manufacturer.”
Therefore, the manufacturer had no duty to design an internal release or opening mechanism that might have prevented this occurrence. Nor did the manufacturer have a duty to warn the plaintiff of the danger of her conduct, given the plaintiff’s unforeseeable use of the product.
“Any implied warranty of merchantability requires that the product must be fit for the ordinary purposes for which it was intended…the usual and ordinary purpose of an automobile trunk is to transport and store goods, including the automobile’s spare tire. Plaintiff’s use of the trunk was highly extraordinary, and there is no evidence that that trunk was not fit for the ordinary purpose for which it was intended.”
The Court concluded, “Lastly, plaintiff’s claim for a breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, cannot withstand summary judgment because the plaintiff has admitted that, at the time she purchased the automobile neither she nor her husband gave any particular thought to the trunk mechanism…that she did not even think about getting out from inside of the trunk.”
Judgment for defendant.
Klein v. Pyrodyne Corporation 817 P.2d 1359 (strict liability)
Supreme Court of Washington
The plaintiffs in this case are persons injured when an aerial shell at a public fireworks exhibition went astray and exploded near them. The defendant is the pyrotechnic company, Pyrodyne Corp., hired to set up and discharge the fireworks. All operators of the fireworks display were Pyrodyne employees acting within the scope of their employment duties at the time of the accident.
During the fireworks display, a 5-inch mortar was knocked into a horizontal position so that an aerial shell inside was ignited and discharged. The shell flew 500 feet and exploded near the crowd of onlookers. Plaintiffs Danny and Marion Klein were injured by the explosion.
The issue before this court is whether Pyrodyne is strictly liable for damages caused by fireworks displays.
Kleins contend that strict liability is the appropriate standard to determine the culpability of Pyrodyne because Pyrodyne was participating in an abnormally dangerous activity.
Pyrodene moved for summary judgment which the court denied.
The Court reasoned, “Section 520 of the Restatement lists six factors that are to be considered in determining whether an activity is “abnormally dangerous”. The factors are as follows: (a) existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to the person, land or chattels of others; (b) likelihood that the harm that results from it will be great; (c) inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care; (d) extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage; (e) inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and (f) extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes.”
The Court also considered who should bear the loss when an innocent person is injured through the nonculpable but abnormally dangerous activities of another. The Court concluded that in the case of fireworks displays, it is most fair for the pyrotechnicians who present the displays to bear the loss rather than the injured parties.
Pyrodyne argued that even if there is strict liability for fireworks, it is not liable under the facts of this case because of the manufacturer’s negligence in producing the fireworks. According to Pyrodyne, a shell detonated without leaving the mortar box because it was negligently manufactured.
The Court argued, “…intervening acts of third persons serve to relieve the defendant from strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities only if those acts were unforeseeable in relation to the extraordinary risk created by the activity.” Given the nature of fireworks, it is foreseeable an accident could occur.
Pyrodyne Corporation is strictly liable for all damages suffered by plaintiff as a result of the fireworks display. Detonating fireworks displays constitutes an abnormally dangerous activity warranting strict liability. Public policy also supports this conclusion.
Label all parts of assignment.