Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability

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Starting during World War II, Crane sold valves to the Navy for use in high-pressure, high-temperature steam pipe systems. Crane's valves did not contain asbestos, but could not practically function in such systems without gaskets, insulation and packing. Crane's technical drawings specified the use of asbestos-based sealing components. Crane packaged the Navy’s valves with asbestos gaskets and stem packing. Navy specifications called for gaskets, valves and insulation that contained asbestos. Crane also marketed "Cranite," an asbestos-based sheet material for use in producing replacements for the original gaskets and packing. Starting in the 1930s, trade associations to which Crane belonged, issued publications describing the hazards of exposure to dust from asbestos-based products. In the 1960s, one group published an article summarizing the growing evidence of a connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. Until at least 1980, Crane never provided warnings. In a suit on behalf of a Navy technician, diagnosed with mesothelioma, the court instructed the jury on the duty to warn against latent dangers resulting from foreseeable uses of its product of which the manufacturer knew or should have known, and on causation, stating that any presumption that the technician would have heeded warnings was rebuttable. The jury found Crane 99% liable and awarded $32 million in damages. The New York Court of Appeals affirmed. The manufacturer has a duty to warn of the danger arising from the known and reasonably foreseeable use of its product in combination with a third-party product which, as a matter of design, mechanics or economic necessity, is necessary to enable the manufacturer's product to function as intended. The court noted proof of Crane's affirmative steps to integrate its valves with third-party asbestos-laden products. View "In re: New York City Asbestos Litig." on Justia Law

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Sixteen-year-old Jessica Bowers sustained severe injuries when she was dragged into the rotating driveline of a tractor-driven post hole digger that was operated by her stepfather, who had borrowed the digger from Peter Smith. Smith had previously removed a plastic safety shield from the machine after years of use had left the shield damaged beyond repair. Plaintiff sued the digger’s seller, distributor, manufacturer, component maker, and others, asserting claims sounding in negligence and strict products liability. Defendants argued that they were entitled to summary judgment based on the substantial modification defense articulated in Robinson v. Reed-Prentice Division of Package Machinery Company because Smith made post-sale modifications to the digger that rendered the digger defective and proximately caused Plaintiff’s injuries. Supreme Court denied summary judgment with regard to the design defect claims. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Plaintiff raised triable issues of fact regarding the defective design of the safety shield that were sufficient to defeat summary judgment based on substantial modification.View "Hoover v. New Holland N. Am., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought an action against Volvo Cars of North America, alleging defective design of a product. The case proceeded to trial. At Plaintiff’s request, the trial court included a pattern jury instruction to charge the jury that was the same standard jury charge in malpractice actions. The instruction tells the jury that a defendant who has special skills in a trade or profession is required to use the same degree of skill and care that others in the same trade or profession would reasonably use in the same situation. A jury rendered a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because this was not a malpractice case but a design defect case, the charge should not have been given, and the error required reversal and a new trial. View "Reis v. Volvo Cars of N. Am." on Justia Law