Conduct of the claimant admitted as a defense to machine design defect warranty claim; jury finds that conduct blocks all recovery. Affirmed on Appeal. Rose v Highway Equipment Company 86 Mass App Ct 204 (2014)
WORKER INJURED MAINTAINING WORK EQUIPMENT
Rose, a worker injured while performing maintenance on heavy machinery, sued the manufacturer of the “broadcast spreader” machine. The equipment’s moving chain was meant to be oiled from behind. While he was oiling the spreader’s moving chain, Rose reached backwards from the front of it, his hand got pulled in and injured.
TWO PRONG CLAIM – NEGLIGENCE AND WARRANTY
The personal injury claim had two bases. The first count alleged negligence which involves measuring the negligence of the claimant and defendant. The jury found Rose 77 percent negligent ending his chance for recovery on that ground.
The second count for relief involved product liability or breach of warranty. The fault of the person bringing the warranty claim should not matter (the focus is on the condition of the product as defective or not) however there is a big exception.
Warranty recovery is completely denied to claimants who voluntarily undertake to unreasonably use a product they know to be defective. The unreasonable misuse defense to warranty claims was recognized in Correia v Firestone. The judge allowed the jury to consider whether Rose’s conduct – and this decision was challenged on appeal.
WHAT TRIGGERS THE JURY’S RIGHT TO CONSIDER AN UNREASONABLE MISUSE DEFENSE?
Rose admitted he’d been told not to oil the chain from in front but chose this easier way. Rose saw warning labels and the equipment manuals but he’d never read them. Rose admitted he’d consumed some beer before the accident. All of this evidence justified the judge’s permitting the jury to consider if Rose’s conduct barred his recovery on a warranty theory.
On appeal Rose’s lawyer argued that the maker of a defective product needs to show that the claimant personally knew of the defect and of the danger. The Appeals Court said the claimant need not know the technical specifics of the defect in order to have the unreasonable misuse introduced into the case.
Machines hurt far fewer workers than they used to. Much of the credit goes to lawsuits against machine makers and the threat of them. There should be a way to oil a moving chain while protecting workers from in-running nip points.
The different triggers in either negligence or in warranty cases, for considering the culpability of the claimant’s conduct, make a jury’s consideration complicated.
This site was created using WordPress and uses Google Analytics to understand how posts are being received.
• This site has Google Analytics Advertising Features implemented involving Google Analytics cookies.
• Some of the ads you receive on pages across the internet are customized based on predictions about your interests generated from your visits over time and across different web-sites. This type of ad customization — sometimes called “interest-based” or “online behavioral” advertising — is enabled through various technologies, including browser cookies as well as other non-cookie technologies.
• Sliver Lake Legal has no policy or intent to use first and third party cookies together.
• Visitors can opt-out of the Google Analytics Advertising Features, including through Ads Settings, Ad Settings for mobile apps, or any other available means (for example, the NAI’s consumer opt-out).
• Users should also visit Google Analytics’ currently available opt-outs for the web.