A three-prong test determines when state tort law is displaced by federal common law in a suit against a military contractor. Liability for design defects in military equipment cannot be imposed, pursuant to state law, when (1) the United States approves reasonably precise specifications; (2) the equipment conforms to those specifications; and (3) the supplier warns the United States about the dangers in the use of the equipment that are known to the supplier but not to the United States.
A passenger filed suit against a manufacturer for strict products liability and breach of warranty after the passenger was injured in an accident involving an ambulance that the manufacturer built to specifications pursuant to a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration. The passenger claimed that the ambulance was unreasonably prone to turn over during its intended use because of an excessively high center of gravity. The district court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer, finding that the government contractor defense was available to it.
Was it proper for the court to grant summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer?
The court determined that, while the government contractor defense was available to nonmilitary contractors under federal common law, defendant had failed to prove that it warned the federal government of dangers in its ambulance known to defendant but not to the federal government. The court concluded that plaintiff's failure to respond to defendant's motion for summary judgment did not relieve defendant of its burden of proving its entitlement to summary judgment, which it had failed to do.