One policy underlying products liability law is to shift responsibility where it seems most just when a product causes physical injury. The choices are few, with the law generally titling in favor of the injured party as opposed to a product manufacturer.
In Meyer v. Alex Lyon & Son, plaintiff purchased a man lift at an auction on an “as is” basis for use at work. After picking up the lift, he brought it to an equipment company for service and inspection, aware that it was not safe for use. Before that company could complete its inspection, plaintiff took possession of the lift. Ever the careful company, the inspector obtained a written assurance that plaintiff understood the dangerous condition of the equipment and required that he sign a hold harmless agreeement before the lift was released.
Plaintiff took the lift and used it for two days at work without incident. But as [bad] luck would have it, he was injured in a fall after the lift failed at his home. Not short on chutzpah, he sued the product manufacturer, the auctioneer and service company seeking recovery based on strict products liability, breach of warranty and negligence. Citing the plaintiff’s explicit knowledge of the product’s defect, the Appellate Division upheld the dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff was aware of the dangerous state of the lift and was in the best position to avoid his own injuries.
Every now and then, common sense prevails…even in the law.
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