Tennessee Court of Appeals Upholds Decision in Failure to Warn Product Liability Case

In a recent products liability case, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a ruling on a case alleging a failure to warn of an unreasonably dangerous product.

In the case, Long v. Quad Power Products, Ten. Ct. App. (2015), the plaintiff, who later passed away and was represented by his wife, was severely injured when a mechanism that he was using attached to a ball valve suddenly broke, causing a release of pressurized air and water to spray onto his left arm and shoulder.

The injury resulted in the plaintiff requiring extensive medical treatment and multiple surgeries, eventually culminating in the need to have his arm amputated.

The plaintiff (and his wife) filed a lawsuit, alleging negligent design, manufacture, and related claims regarding the ball valve, in addition to alleging a failure to warn cause of action.

Since the valve was manufactured overseas, there were four separate companies named as defendants in the suit. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of two of the defendants, on the basis of a lack of personal jurisdiction. In order for courts to be able to render decisions against defendants, they must be able to have specific interactions in the relevant area, referred to as minimum contacts, in order to be subjected to the law of the jurisdiction.

The only remaining claim left against the two other defendants was based on the theory of failure to warn, for which both defendants filed summary judgment motions. The trial court found that no genuine issue of material fact existed that could establish strict liability on the basis of a failure to warn, and thus it granted the motions for summary judgment. It was from that decision that the plaintiff appealed.

Thus, the appeals court turned to the plaintiff’s arguments for a reversal of the summary judgment motions.

First, regarding the allegation that the trial court erred in finding that the company had not properly warned the plaintiff, the court found that the decision was not in error.

The trial court found that there was no issue of material fact since the plaintiffs did not allege that the valve was unreasonably dangerous at the time it was offered for sale, but rather that it allegedly later became defective. In fact, according to the court, it had been removed from service some days before the accident happened but somehow got back into circulation, when the plaintiff used it to replace a different faulty valve.

Additionally, the valve was stamped with the European equivalent of the relevant measurement, which was what the plaintiffs claim they were not warned about. Additionally, the court found there was no dispute that it was not the valve but rather a coupling tool attached to it that failed.

Thus, the appeals court agreed with the trial court’s findings that the reason the plaintiff’s unfortunate injuries occurred was not due to the valve itself but a failure to remove it from circulation and the way in which it was being used. Therefore, the fault did not lie with the defendants, and the trial court’s judgments were affirmed.

The accident attorneys at MHPS are dedicated to representing Nashville residents who have been hurt due to someone else’s negligent actions. We serve injured individuals in and around Davidson and Williamson Counties, including Brentwood, Bellevue, and Hermitage. Our skilled attorneys will take the time to learn about you and your case, and we will vigorously pursue your right to compensation.

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