The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that the maker of a component for a laundry system may be liable for brain damage suffered by a worker due to ozone exposure. The Court reversed a summary judgment that had been entered by the trial judge. The Plaintiff alleged that she suffered brain damage as a result of exposure to ozone emitted from an ozone-laundry system installed where she worked. She filed product liability suits against a variety of installers, distributors and manufacturers of the laundry system.
The manufacturer of the ozone generator used in the system argued that it could not be held liable because its product was not defective. But the Court decided that the Plaintiff produced sufficient evidence showing that the generator was defective because it didn’t have an automatic shut off sometimes installed in other generators. Moreover, the Court adopted the “component-parts doctrine,” under which a manufacturer of a non-defective product may be liable for the design defects of a system. The Court said in an opinion:
Liability for failure to install a safety device … depends on whether the component manufacturer was in a position to control the decision making involved in the design of the integrated product. The act of ‘simply design[ing] a component to its buyer’s specifications’ or ‘providing … technical services or advice’ about the component does not in and of itself constitute substantial participation in the design of the integrated product. However, if the specifications provided are obviously unreasonably dangerous, the component manufacturer may be deemed to have control over the integrated product and therefore be deemed to have substantially participated.
The case was remanded to the lower court so that the Plaintiff would have the opportunity to develop the case under a component-parts theory. This case will be watched closely by safety advocates.
Source: Lawyers USA Online
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