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It is now well established that, in order for a party to recover based upon a strict liability in tort theory, it must be proven that: there was, in fact, a defect in the product manufactured and sold by the defendant; such defect existed at the time the product left the hands of the defendant; and the defect was the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries or loss.
Appellants, injured punch press operator and her husband, filed a products liability action against appellees, manufacturer, distributor, and alteration fabricator, for injuries she sustained on a punch press. The punch press had been altered with parts obtained from appellee alteration fabricator by appellant injured party's employer subsequent to purchase. Appellants' complaint asserted negligence and strict liability claims. Summary judgment was entered for appellees and the court of appeals affirmed that ruling.
Could the manufacturer and distributor be found liable for appellant's injuries from the punch press when the same had already been altered by the employer?
The court found that there was no original defect in the punch press, and that the employer's alteration of the safety device, coupled with other factors, were responsible for appellant operator's injuries. Applicable law in turn dictated that appellees, manufacturer and distributor, could not be found liable for appellant's injuries from the press, as it had been altered post purchase. Further, appellees did not know, nor could they have known, of a defect that was created by employer, so they could not be liable under the theory of negligent failure to warn. The court thus concluded that summary judgment was properly rendered for the appellees.