Michigan Supreme Court Holds Misuse Must Be “Reasonably Foreseeable” for Product Liability

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The Michigan Supreme Court recently clarified the standards for product liability. The Supreme Court overturned a case from the Michigan Court of Appeals that used the wrong standard to decide whether a case should go forward on a motion for summary judgment. In this case, the court held that a manufacturer is only liable for harm from misuse in a products liability case if the misuse was reasonably foreseeable. If you are injured by a product or machine, you should contact a knowledgeable Michigan product liability attorney to help you get any damages that you are entitled to from a defective product.

Current Case

Here, a man was injured while using a press machine manufactured by Dieffenbacher North America, Inc. He climbed partially inside the 500-ton machine without setting it on manual mode when he became trapped after the machine started its automatic cycle. He was seriously injured and sustained fractures in his back, as well as severe burns. He sued Dieffenbacher under a theory of product liability.

Dieffenbacher moved for summary judgment at the trial court level. Summary judgment will be granted only when there is no material facts in dispute and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law in their favor. The trial court granted Dieffenbacher’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case. It held that the plaintiff had the burden to show that the way he misused the machine was foreseeable, but he failed to do that.

The injured operator appealed and the Michigan Court of Appeals found in the injured man’s favor, allowing the case to go forward under a gross negligence theory of foreseeability. However, this court held that the Court of Appeals did not make the proper inquiry. The Michigan Supreme Court clarified that under their tort law there is a two prong test as to whether Dieffenbacher should be liable for the injuries plaintiff sustained. The first step is to decide whether the way the machine was used constituted a “misuse” of the machine. Then if it did, the dispositive question is whether the misuse was reasonably foreseeable. In order to determine foreseeability, the court should focus on whether the manufacturers knew or should have known of the misuse.

Kinds of Product Liability

If you want to hold a manufacturer accountable for harm caused by their product, there are three different categories of defects that you can allege. The first kind of defect is a manufacturing defect. This is when one or a few of the products do not adhere to the standards that the all of the products should possess. Another kind of defect is a design defect, as alleged here. A design defect is when there is a flaw in the way an item is designed that makes it unreasonably dangerous. Finally, the third kind of defect are marketing defects. Marketing defects are when proper warnings are not included with the product, or when the manufacturer does not warn consumers about a hidden danger.

Contact an Experienced Western Michigan Product Liability Attorney Today!

If you are injured due to a defective product, whether the defect is in design, manufacturing, or marketing, you should contact a skilled product liability as soon as possible. The attorneys at Neumann Law Group can help to represent you and potentially recover any damages you are owed due to the defect. Neumann Law Group accepts clients in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Southfield, Traverse City, and the rest of Western Michigan. Call 800-525-6386 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free consultation today.

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