Question

Cincinnati Incorporated (Cincinnati) manufactures a hydraulic press brake, a machine tool commonly used to shape sheet metal. The tool consists of a hydraulic ram that presses the metal and a die onto which the metal is pressed. The operator feeds sheet metal between the die and the ram, and the ram descends to bend the sheet metal. The press is operated by a foot pedal, known as a foot switch. As originally sold by Cincinnati, the press was equipped with a foot switch that had a front flap, or gate, to prevent accidental depression. The operator had to lift the gate with his foot to access the enclosed pedal. The press also came equipped with two foot switches, each of which had to be depressed simultaneously by two different operators in order to trigger the ram. When the press was first sold by Cincinnati 20 years ago to a company named Steelgard, the safety equipment was in place. The press had been sold several times to other companies before Ventaire, Inc. acquired it. Sometime between the press’s original sale and its sale to Ventaire, the original foot switches were removed and replaced with ones that did not have a gate. Also, one of the foot switches had been disabled so that the press could be operated with a single foot switch unprotected by any gate. The press still contained the original conspicuous signs that warned the operator not to place his or her hands in the press and that his or her fingers or hands could be crushed if he or she did so.
While Derek Braswell, an employee of Ventaire, was operating the press, Braswell reached into the die area with his right hand to remove a jammed piece of metal. While doing so, he accidentally stepped on the foot switch, triggering the ram’s descent and crushing his right arm, which was later amputated. Braswell filed a strict liability lawsuit against Cincinnati to recover damages for his injuries, alleging that Cincinnati’s press was designed defectively. In defense, Cincinnati asserted that the press was designed properly and equipped with safety features when the press was first sold, which would have prevented this type of accident, and that the removal and disabling of the safety features was a supervening event and that it is not responsible for plaintiff Braswell’s injuries. Is Cincinnati liable in strict liability for a design defect? Braswell v. Cincinnati Incorporated, 731 F. 3d 1081, 2013 U. S. App. Lexis 19451 (United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 2013)


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  • CreatedAugust 12, 2015
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