Indiana Court Holds Component Part Manufacturer May Be Liable for Failure to Install Necessary Safety Features

Recently, a state appellate court issued a decision in an Indiana product liability case discussing whether the manufacturer of a component part can be held liable for its failure to install what the plaintiff alleges is a necessary safety feature. The court concluded that this case was somewhat unique in that the component part at issue had only one final use, and because of that, the question of whether a duty existed should be resolved by a jury.

According to the court’s opinion, a semi-truck was backing up on a job site when it ran over a construction foreman. The foreman died as a result of his injuries. The foreman’s wife (“the plaintiff”) filed a wrongful death case against the defendant, under a theory of product liability.

The defendant manufactured the “glider kit,” which consists of the frame and body of the truck. To turn the glider kit into a completed semi-truck, the purchaser must install an engine, transmission, and exhaust system. The glider kit did not come with any back-up cameras or alarms. However, a purchaser could opt to add those items onto the kit at an additional cost.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant manufacturer was liable for failing to install necessary safety equipment on the glider kit to prevent the type of accident that resulted in her husband’s death. In response, the defendant argued that it only manufactured a component part, and was not responsible for the final product. The defendant claimed that the decision to purchase a back-up alarm or camera rested with the purchaser, who would know best whether such features were necessary depending on the intended use of the final product.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted. The plaintiff appealed, and was successful in having the case reversed. However, then the defendant appealed up to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The High Court’s Decision

The Indiana Supreme Court rejected the defendant’s argument, determining that the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial so a jury could determine whether the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s loss. The court explained that the manufacturers of some component parts can safely leave the decision to the final purchaser whether certain safety features are necessary. However, the court held that was not the case here because the glider kit had only “one reasonably foreseeable use.”

The court explained that the glider kit could only become one thing – a fully functional, road-ready semi-truck – and that the defendant failed to show that such a final product was safe without the installed safety features. Because the defendant was unable to establish that its product had a reasonably foreseeable use that did not require the proposed safety feature, the defendant was not entitled to summary judgment.

Consult with an Experienced Indiana Product Liability Attorney

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a defective or dangerous product, you may be entitled to financial compensation through an Indiana product liability lawsuit. At Padove Law, Attorney Burton A. Padove dutifully represents clients in all types of Indiana injury cases, including defective product claims. With over 25 years of experience assisting clients obtain the compensation they deserve, Attorney Padove knows what it takes to succeed on behalf of his clients. To learn more, call 877-446-5294 to schedule a free consultation today.