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To impose liability there has to be something about the article which makes it dangerously defective without regard to whether the manufacturer was or was not at fault for such condition. A dangerously defective article would be one which a reasonable person would not put into the stream of commerce if he had knowledge of its harmful character. The test, therefore, is whether the seller would be negligent if he sold the article knowing of the risk involved. Strict liability imposes what amounts to constructive knowledge of the condition of the product.
Plaintiff was injured while feeding fiberboard into a sanding machine during his employment with Pope and Talbot, a wood products manufacturer. The sanding machine had been purchased by Pope and Talbot from defendant, Kimwood Machine Company. Plaintiff brought the present action on a products liability theory, contending the sanding machine was unreasonably dangerous by virtue of defective design. At the completion of the testimony, defendant's motion for a directed verdict was granted and plaintiff appealed.
Was the sanding machine unreasonably dangerous by virtue of defective design, thereby rendering defendant manufacturer liable to plaintiff?
The court reversed and found that defendant did not warn plaintiff's employer about possible problems that could arise because of the lack of safety devices on the sanding machine. According to the court, in determining whether a design was unreasonably dangerous, the fact finder must look at the surrounding circumstances and knowledge at the time the product was sold, and whether a reasonably prudent manufacturer would have designed and sold the product if he had known of the risks. Here, the court found the jury could find the product was unreasonably dangerous and defective because the manufacturer had knowledge of the product and inspected plaintiff's machine before the accident. Further, the lack of warning to plaintiff of possible dangers associated with the use of the machine may have rendered the machine dangerously defective.