Court Dismisses Products Case Against Component Manufacturers

In New York, a claim will sound in products liability if a product placed into the stream of commerce: “(a) contains a manufacturing flaw, (b) is defectively designed; or (c) is not accompanied by adequate warnings for [its] use.” [1]  The manufacturer of a component which is incorporated into a product will not be liable if the component was produced “in accordance with the design, plans and specifications of the buyer and such design, plans and specifications do not reveal any inherent danger in either the component part or the assembled unit.”  [2]

In April 2005, Jason Gray was performing an inspection on part of an aluminum extrusion press when another employee operated the “die slide,” pinching Gray’s leg (which later had to be amputated).  The manufacturer of the “die slide” moved for summary judgment, arguing that it merely shipped this component part, that this part was not “defective,” and that it could not be held liable for the alleged lack of a safety guard that might have prevented this accident.  The Court agreed and granted summary judgment, finding that the die slide manufacturer had no duty to warn since this component manufacturer had no knowledge of a potential hazard created when this component was installed into the press. 

Similarly, the manufacturer of the component controls was dismissed from the action because there was no evidence that the controls were defective and this component manufacturer had no duty to warn the press manufacturer of any safety features unrelated to the controls.

The company that assembled the press was apparently the only party that could theoretically be sued for failure to include a safety guard.  However, this company was also Gray’s employer and Gray was barred from suing it by the Workers Compensation Law.  Such a barrier does not exist in subrogation actions where the plaintiff seeks to recover amounts paid by a carrier for property damage. 

Bottom Line:  The prosecution of a products liability claim requires the early retention of expert witnesses to develop a specific theory of liability.  Simply stating that a product did not perform as intended is not sufficient.  In the case of component manufacturers, plaintiff must also show either that the component was defect as manufactured or that it was not accompanied by adequate warnings.


  [1] Gray v. R.L. Best, 3rd Dept No:  509168 (November 10, 2010) at page 3.
 [2] Id.

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