Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana product liability case discussing under what circumstances the manufacturer of a component part can be held liable for its failure to include a necessary safety feature. The case is interesting because it resolves a previously unanswered question under the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA).
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s husband was killed when a semi-truck backed up over him. The defendant manufactured the “glider kit” which, in the court’s words, “becomes an operable over-the-road semi-truck after a purchaser installs an engine, transmission, and exhaust system.” The glider kit has a 40-foot blind spot behind the vehicle. The defendant allows buyers to purchase additional safety features, such as a rear-view window, a backup alarm, a backup camera, or backup flashers. None of those features were installed on the unit that ran over the plaintiff’s husband.
The plaintiff filed an Indiana product liability claim against the defendant, claiming that the glider kit suffered from a defective design. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty to install additional safety features. The defendant claimed that it did not manufacturer the completed semi-truck, and that the glider kit was not unreasonably dangerous or defective when it left the defendant’s control and that it was up to the purchaser to ensure that the final vehicle was safe for its intended use.
The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, but the case was reversed on appeal. The defendant appealed the intermediate appellate court’s decision to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Indiana Supreme Court concluded that the defendant was not entitled to summary judgment. The court explained that manufacturers of component parts are often not liable for the dangerousness of the final product because the component part may have many uses, some of which require safety features and others of which may not. Here, however, the court explained that the glider kit has “only one reasonably foreseeable use” – an over-the-road semi-truck. Thus, the court held that, in these cases, the defendant must be able to show either:
- the final manufacturer was offered the safety features and declined them, or
- the component part, once integrated, can be used safely without those safety features.
The court held that the defendant could not make either of these showings, and as a result, was not entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s product liability claim.
Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a defective or dangerous product, the dedicated Indiana product liability attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse can help. We have over 40 years of experience helping injury victims and their family members obtain the financial compensation they deserve after being involved in serious, life-altering accidents. We offer compassionate, skillful representation to all accident victims, including those injured in truck accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and incidents of medical malpractice. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.