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How New York's Laws Limit Defective Products and Personal Injury Lawsuits


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3/8/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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As noted in our news section, a New York jury recently held that the manufacturer of a conveyor system was not liable for the personal injuries suffered by a man whose hand was caught in the machinery. Although the plaintiff's personal injuries in this particular case were severe, it certainly seems - at first blush - like the plaintiff pursued the wrong defendant.  Here's why:

In this case, the plaintiff claimed that the manufacturer should be held responsible for the serious injuries he sustained because the manufacturer should have warned against setting up the machine in close proximity to a table and offloading tray, since such a setup posed a risk of his hand getting caught in the gap between them. To say the least, this is a weak theory of liability, and the jury apparently concurred.

In rendering their verdict, the jury agreed with the defendant manufacturer's assertion that the defendant should not be held liable in negligence or otherwise, because there was no evidence that the product they manufactured was defective, and they should not be held responsible to warn against a dangerous condition that was created by the user (i.e., plaintiff's employer) rather than them.

This raises an important question: presumably, the plaintiff knew there was a weak case against the manufacturer. So why did plaintiff sue the manufacturer rather than what was presumably a much stronger case against his employer? The answer lies in the Workers' Compensation Law, which bars a claimant from suing his employer for work-related personal injuries unless he sustains one of the specifically delineated categories of  "grave injury" set forth in Workers' Compensation Law §11. Realizing the limitations imposed by the law, the plaintiff elected to pursue the only other potentially liable defendant - the manufacturer.

Category: Defective Products

Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer

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