Articles Posted in Products Liability

by
Neal and Bonnie Messer owned a building located in close proximity to a building owned by Steve Forster and Daniel Krebs. An explosion occurred in the Forster/Krebs building and subsequently damaged the Messers' building. B&B Hot Oil Service, Inc. held a lease on the west half of the Forster/Krebs building. B&B stored two hot oil trucks inside the building. The trucks were a 2005 vehicle designed and manufactured by Energy Fabrication, and a 2009 "knockoff" truck jointly constructed by B&B and JB's Welding through reverse engineering of an EnerFab vehicle. A hot oil truck holds various chemicals to flush and clean oil wells and lines, including propane. An investigation into the explosion determined both trucks were storing propane at the time of the explosion, and the source of the explosion allegedly started in the B&B leased space. The investigation also indicated that the explosion was a result of a propane leak from the "knockoff" truck. The Messers filed claims against both B&B and JB as a result of the explosion: JB for damage to their building under both theories of strict products liability as a manufacturer of the reverse engineered truck and negligence in construction of the truck. They alleged that the EnerFab vehicle design included an electronic failsafe control valve for the propane storage which acts as a shutoff safety feature in case manual control valves fail to close or leak, and the reverse engineered truck did not include a failsafe control valve. JB moved for summary judgment and dismissal of the claims. At the hearing, the Messers presented the affidavit of an expert witness who stated that the failure to install an electronic failsafe shutoff control valve rendered the "knockoff" truck unreasonably dangerous when it was accepted by B&B, and JB was negligent in failing to design and manufacture the firebox assembly with that control valve. In granting JB's motion for summary judgment, the trial court found that JB only welded the shell of the truck including the firebox and propane lines, and had nothing to do with the propane system, valves, or decision to install automatic shutoffs. The Supreme Court reversed: the record showed a factual dispute existed as to whether JB was a manufacturer under a theory of strict liability. "[R]easonable issues of material fact exist as to JB's status as a manufacturer of the truck, and whether JB's alleged failure to install the electronic shutoff valves was the proximate cause of the Messers' injuries. Because this status is undetermined, whether JB holds a duty to exercise reasonable care in the design or manufacture of the truck, or holds a duty to warn of the inherit danger of the vehicle, depends on factual determinations to be decided by a trier of fact. The appropriate procedure is to instruct the jury to find the status of JB before determining whether a duty, if any, was owed by JB to the Messers." View "Messer v. B&B Hot Oil Service, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota certified a question to the Supreme Court on whether North Dakota applies the "apparent manufacturer" doctrine to N.D.C.C. ch. 28-01.3. Plaintiffs Ruth and Nathan Bornsen brought a products liability action in state district court against Pragotrade, LLC, Pragotrade, Inc., and Cabela's Retail, Inc., for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty, alleging Ruth Bornsen injured her hand on while using a meat grinder manufactured by Pragotrade and purchased from Cabela's. At a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the Bornsens cited "Reiss v. Komatsu Am. Corp.," and argued Cabela's was an "apparent manufacturer" of the meat grinder under the Restatement of Torts and was not entitled to dismissal under N.D.C.C. 28-01.3-04. After supplemental briefing by the parties, the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota certified: "[w]hether the North Dakota Supreme Court intends to adopt the 'apparent manufacturer' doctrine set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Torts Sec. 400 or more recently, the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Product Liability Sec.14." Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that: "[t]o the extent that a statute specifies responsibilities, the statutory terms control. But to the extent that a statute does not, the rule in this Section states the common-law rule." Here, the North Dakota Products Liability Act treats nonmanufacturing sellers "more leniently" than did the common law rule. "That is a legislative determination which we are bound to follow." On the record certified in this case, the Supreme Court answer the certified question "No." View "Bornsen v. Pragotrade, LLC" on Justia Law