Week 5 Discussion Board

Week 5 Discussion Board

Read Chapter 6 case 6.3 – Genie Industries, Inc. v. Matak (See Attached)

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  • Research and locate another case in which a company was being sued for design defect.  Explain how these cases are similar – how are they different?
  • What do you see as other possible outcomes for businesses?
  • Should businesses be held liable if people contribute to their own injuries?

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Brief Fact Summary.

James Boggan and Walter Matak, employees of Gulf Coast Electric, used an AWP-40S aerial work platform manufactured and sold by Genie Industries, Inc. (Genie) (defendant) to perform work. The 1,000-pound versatile lift contained a platform on which an individual could stand. Boggan retracted the four stabilizers and attempted to move the lift with Matak on the raised platform and the machine fell. Matak suffered massive head injuries and died. Representatives of Walter Matak’s estate (plaintiffs) filed suit against Genie based upon an alleged design defect in the AWP-40S.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

In a products-liability action alleging a design defect, a plaintiff must show that (1) the product was defectively designed so as to render the product unreasonably dangerous, (2) a safer alternative design existed at the time of the incident, and (3) the product’s defect was a producing cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

Facts.

James Boggan and Walter Matak, employees of Gulf Coast Electric, used an AWP-40S aerial work platform manufactured and sold by Genie Industries, Inc. (Genie) (defendant) to perform work. The 1,000-pound versatile lift contained a platform on which an individual could stand. Signs on the machine and in the user’s manual warned of the obvious danger that the machine could fall over if its four stabilizers were not deployed at the base of the lift prior to raising the platform. Boggan retracted the four stabilizers and attempted to move the lift with Matak on the raised platform and the machine fell. Matak suffered massive head injuries and died. Representatives of Walter Matak’s estate (plaintiffs) filed suit against Genie based upon an alleged design defect in the AWP-40S. At trial, the plaintiff presented four alternative designs to the AWP-40S. The jury held for the plaintiffs. The court of appeals affirmed, and the state supreme court granted Genie’s petition for review.

Issue.

Whether a product manufacturer is liable for a design defect if no safer alternative design existed at the time of the incident and the defect at issue did not render the product unreasonably dangerous.

Held.

A product manufacturer is not liable for a design defect unless a safer alternative design existed at the time of the incident and the defect at issue rendered the product unreasonably dangerous in that its risks outweighed its utility. In a products-liability action alleging a design defect, a plaintiff must show that (1) the product was defectively designed so as to render the product unreasonably dangerous, (2) a safer alternative design existed at the time of the incident, and (3) the product’s defect was a producing cause of the plaintiff’s injury.The risk of danger from misuse of the lift is so obvious that the evidence does not reflect a single other accident involving a fully extended AWP-40S lift. Because the plaintiffs failed to produce a safer alternative design for the lift and the evidence showed that the product was not unreasonably dangerous, the judgment of the court of appeals is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Discussion.

For a design defect to exist, there must have been a safer alternative design that would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of Matak’s injury without substantially impairing the product’s utility and that was economically and technologically feasible at the time the product left Genie’s control. At trial, the plaintiffs’ expert presented three alternative designs to the AWP-40S, and the plaintiffs’ counsel presented a fourth alternative. However, none of the provided alternatives would have reduced the risk of harm to Matak while at the same time maintaining the product’s utility. Moreover, the signs warning of the obvious risk of tip-over of the machine were readily apparent on the lift and in the instruction manual.A product manufacturer is not liable for a design defect unless a safer alternative design existed at the time of the incident and the defect at issue rendered the product unreasonably dangerous.