An Indiana man who lost an eye and suffered a number of other serious facial injuries when a power tool he was using malfunctioned and struck him in the face may proceed with his Indiana product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of that tool, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. In so doing, the appellate court reversed the trial judge’s earlier grant of summary judgment to the defense.
The plaintiff’s original claim to the trial court was that the product’s faulty instructions, inadequate warnings, and lack of a safety guard (or any explicit information regarding a proper safety guard) made the air-compressor tool unreasonably dangerous as manufactured. The defense countered that no reasonable jury could find the plaintiff less than 51 percent at fault for his injuries (the standard under Indiana’s comparative fault law), given each of the three defenses presented: misuse, alteration, and incurred risk. Specifically, the defense argued the plaintiff misused the product and altered the product, and there was an incurred risk for the use of the product.
The trial court ruled the plaintiff misused the grinder as a matter of law because he did not wear safety glasses. In the plaintiff’s appeal, he noted that the power tool was defective because it was sold without a safety guard, and the company gave no instruction on how to obtain or use such a guard, which was not and is not available for purchase by the company. Furthermore, the plaintiff argued the instructions didn’t warn users of the possible danger of using the tool with a cut-off wheel absent a safety guard.