Court Finds Plaintiff’s Misuse of Tool Was Fatal to His Product Liability Claim

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing several important issues that frequently arise in Maryland product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s misuse of the defendant’s product constituted a complete defense to the plaintiff’s claim. The court concluded that it did and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff owned a die grinder manufactured by the defendant. The grinder was an air-powered tool that was compatible with various attachments and was designed for a variety of applications. According to the court’s opinion, the grinder contained an instruction manual indicating that all instructions should be read before using the product and “failure to comply with instructions could result in personal injury.”

Evidently, the manual instructed users only to use the cut-off wheel attachment when a safety guard is in place. Additionally, the instructions indicated that only attachments that were rated up to 25,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) should be used. The manual also instructed users to wear safety glasses at all times while using the product. The grinder did not come with a safety guard.

The plaintiff used the grinder to help a friend work on his truck. The plaintiff used a cut-off wheel rated at 19,000 RPM, and did not install a safety guard before using the product. At the time, the plaintiff was wearing his prescription eyeglasses, which he believed to be sufficient to protect his eyes.

While the plaintiff was using the grinder, the cut-off wheel came off the tool and struck him in the face, breaking his glasses and causing serious injury to his face and eye. The plaintiff eventually lost his eye and filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendant manufacturer.

The manufacturer claimed that the plaintiff’s misuse of the tool was a complete defense to the claim against it. The plaintiff acknowledged that he misused the product, and that had he used a safety guard his injuries would have been prevented, but argued that his misuse was not a complete defense and that it should be left up to a jury to make the final determination.

The Court’s Analysis

The court first noted that a plaintiff’s misuse of a defendant’s product is one of three statutory defenses. That being the case, the court concluded that it could be a complete defense if the defendant proves it. This means that if a product liability defendant can establish a plaintiff’s misuse of the product, a court is proper to dismiss a plaintiff’s case before submitting it to a jury.

Here, the court held that the defendant proved that the plaintiff misused the product and that such use was not foreseeable. The court explained that because the defendant included an instruction manual describing the proper use of the product, the defendant could not have foreseen that the plaintiff would misuse the product in “three distinct ways.” The court also noted that the instructions were clear, and although the defendant could “perhaps reasonably expected a user to not use proper eyewear or for a user to attach a cut-off disc without a guard, or for a user to attach something with an improper RPM rating, it was not reasonably expected for a user to disregard the safety instructions in all three of these ways.”

Have You Been Injured While Using a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured after using a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland product liability lawsuit. The dedicated Maryland product liability attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience assisting injury victims and their families in pursuing claims for compensation against the manufacturers of defective and unreasonably dangerous products. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Medical Malpractice Case to Proceed Despite Lack of Expert Affidavit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 8, 2018.

Court Discusses Property Owner’s Non-Delegable Duty to Keep Area Safe in Recent Premises Liability Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 1, 2018.

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