Battle Over Jury Instruction on Defective Product.

The plaintiff was injured while using a hydraulic cattle chute that he bought from the defendant.  At the time of the injury the plaintiff was using the chute to pregnancy check cattle.  The chute had been purchased just a few weeks before the incident at issue, and the plaintiff had operated it without incident.  The operator’s manual for the chute provided a warning that the chute should only be operated with its own power source and that the use of a different power source would void the warranty.  The purpose of the restriction was to ensure that there would be a constant flow of hydraulic fluid without any excess or reverse flow.  At the time of the plaintiff’s injury, the chute was using the hydraulic system of a tractor rather than the chute’s own power source.  Hydraulic fluid shot from a control valve and struck the plaintiff in the cheek, leaving an injection wound.  The plaintiff sued for his injuries.  A post-event analysis revealed that an o-ring failed and the chute operated properly after the o-ring was replaced.  The plaintiff’s suit was based in strict liability for defective design, defective manufacture, failure to warn or inspect or test.  The jury was instructed that “a product is in defective condition if [it] has defects in design, manufacturing, instructions, warnings, and such defects existed at the time the product left the manufacturer’s and/or seller’s hands.”  At the instructions conference, the plaintiff wanted additional jury instruction language noting that “A product may also be defective without any ascertainable defect in the product and although the product was precisely what it was intended to be, if the manufacturer fails to give adequate and timely warnings as to the dangers or hazards which may result from a foreseeable use or misuse of the product.”  The trial court judge rejected the additional language and the jury returned a verdict for the defendant.  On appeal, the court upheld the trial court’s jury instruction.  The verdict was not contrary to the evidence and the jury instruction that was not used would not have resulted in a different outcome insomuch as the cause of the accident was not known and there was evidence that the plaintiff had not followed the manual in other respects concerning the operation of the chute.  Feight v. Moly Manufacturing, Inc., No. 111,899, 2015 Kan. App. LEXIS 839 (Kan. Ct. App. Oct. 9, 2015).

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