In a strict liability case alleging defective design, the plaintiff must prove the existence of a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to a foreseeable user, that the unreasonably dangerous condition existed when the product was purchased, and that the dangerous condition caused the injury.
Plaintiff employee lost portions of three fingers when he and another worker were operating a plastic demolding device manufactured by defendant company. Testimony at the trial of plaintiff’s product liability action indicated that, although the machine was intended to be used by only one person, it was not uncommon for two employees to operate it. The trial court denied defendant's motions for a nonsuit, dismissal, directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and new trial. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff. On defendant’s appeal, the state supreme court affirmed the trial court's judgment for plaintiff but remanded the case on a finding that the evidence did not support the amount of the verdict.
Did the evidence against defendant support a verdict of strict liability in tort for the defective design of its device?
The evidence supported a finding that the machine was defectively designed. Placement of the buttons on the side encouraged two-person operation. That condition, coupled with inadequate warnings against two-person use, made the machine "unreasonably dangerous." The was evidence of the foreseeability of two-person use. Therefore, the trial court properly denied defendant company's motions relating to the sufficiency of the evidence.