Indiana Court Holds Plaintiff’s Misuse of Tool Defeated Product Liability Claim

Earlier in November, a written opinion was issued about an Indiana product liability case discussing whether a plaintiff’s incorrect use of the product is a complete defense for the manufacturer. The court held that a plaintiff’s misuse of a product can be a total defense if it is proven by the manufacturer.

The Factual Scenario

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a rotary tool powered by air that was manufactured by the defendant. The tool included an instruction manual, outlining the proper use of the tool. Among other matters, the tool’s directions informed users to always wear safety glasses when using the tool; not to only use the cut-off wheel attachment if the safety guard is secured into place; and, only use attachments that are rated for a minimum of 25,000 RPM (revs per minute). The tool did not come with the referenced safety guard and the instruction manual did not inform users where they could obtain one.

Evidently, the plaintiff was helping a friend with a project that required the use of the cut-off attachment. While doing so, the plaintiff wore eyeglasses, which he believed would be adequate protection. In addition, the tool did not have a safety guard installed and the cut-off wheel attachment he was using was rated for only 19,000 RPM. The cut-off wheel attachment subsequently broke and struck the plaintiff in the face, causing serious injuries including the loss of his eye.

The plaintiff sued the defendant manufacturer under a theory of product liability. In response, the manufacturer filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff misused its product and that under Indiana product liability law misuse was a complete defense. The trial court agreed with the defendant manufacturer, and found that the plaintiff was at least 51% responsible for his injuries. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Analysis

The ultimate question for the court to answer was whether a judge that finds a plaintiff misused a product can dismiss the plaintiff’s case without submitting the case to a jury. This can only be done if the defense is a “complete defense.”

The court noted that there are three statutory defenses to a product liability lawsuit, incurred risk, misuse of the product, and modification or alteration of the product. The court explained that misuse is a complete defense if it is sufficiently proven by the manufacturer.

Here, the court determined that the defendant manufacturer proved that the plaintiff misused its product. The court explained that the plaintiff misused the product in three ways. Specifically, the court held that the plaintiff was not wearing safety glasses, did not attach a safety guard, and used an attachment that was rated at less than 25,000 RPM.

The court went on to hold that because the plaintiff misused the product in “three distinct ways,” the plaintiff’s misuse was not foreseeable by the manufacturer. Thus, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Were You Injured by a Dangerous Product in Indiana?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured by a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana product liability lawsuit. The dedicated Indiana injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling a wide range of Indiana injury claims, including those involving dangerous products. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation.

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Court Discusses Res Ipsa Loquitor Doctrine in Recent Premises Liability Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 20, 2018