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The mere existence of warnings in an instruction manual is not dispositive of the adequacy of the warnings for several reasons. A warning may be defective not only by virtue of inadequate wording, but as a result of its location and the manner in which the warning is conveyed. For example, even if the language contained in the instruction manual adequately apprises a user of the dangers, a jury could find the warning defective because it was not permanently affixed to the product.
Plaintiff's decedent, Daniel Brown, Jr., died as a result of injuries sustained when the tractor he was operating for his employer, U.S. Sugar Corporation (U.S. Sugar), rolled over. Following the accident, plaintiff filed suit against the appellees - the tractor’s manufacturer, MRS Manufacturing Co., Inc. (MRS), and the seller, Glades Equipment Co., Inc. (Glades Equipment) - under strict liability and negligence theories. Plaintiff asserted defects in the design of the rear wheel steering system and design defects in the warnings, including the failure to apprise the user of the dangers of driving the vehicle on the road without the proper lock-out of the rear wheel steering system. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees, holding that as a matter of law, strict liability and negligence theories did not apply because the manufacturer provided adequate warnings in the instruction manual concerning the dangers of using the tractor without the lock-out pin.
Under the circumstances, did the trial court correctly grant summary judgment in favor of the appellees?
The appellate court reversed the judgment, finding that issues of fact remained as to defective design and negligent failure to inspect. By focusing on the issue of warnings, the trial court disregarded the disputed factual issue of defective design raised by appellant's engineering experts. Further, by granting summary judgment, the trial court impermissibly removed the issue of defective warnings from the jury's consideration. Additionally, the court concluded that appellant's experts expressed opinions as to causation sufficient to allow a jury to decide the issue.