Legal Memorandum: Defenses to a Product Liability Claim

Issue: In Ohio, when a person is injured because of a modification to a product, is the manufacturer liable?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Modification to a product; Liability; Injuries
Jurisdiction: Ohio
Cited Cases: 534 N.E.2d 855; 364 N.E.2d 267; 580 N.E.2d 47; 392 N.E.2d 1287; 477 N.E.2d 638; 728 N.E.2d 431
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A
Date: 12/01/2000

Two different cases support the proposition that it a manufacturer is not liable for a plaintiff’s injuries when a product is modified.  The first is Temple v. Wean United, Inc., 50 Ohio St. 2d 317, 364 N.E.2d 267 (1977).  (Temple has been distinguished numerous times by other courts, in some cases for propositions related to products liability issues. In other cases, most notably Westray v. Imperial Pools & Supplies, Inc., 133 Ohio App. 3d 426, 728 N.E.2d 431 (1999), the summary judgment standard enunciated by the Temple court was noted as being superceded.)  In Temple, a power punch press operator was injured when her hands and forearms were caught in the machine.   364 N.E.2d at 269.  The press had been manufactured and sold by one company, then was sold to Turner Industries, which then sold the machine to the plaintiff’s employer.  Id.  The plaintiff’s employer modified the operating control circuits of the machine and installed new operating buttons.  Id.

The plaintiffs injuries occurred when pieces of material fell off the bolster of the machine and depressed the operating switches.  Id.  There was no malfunction in the press itself.  Id.  After reviewing the evidence, the court determined that the modifications made by the plaintiff’s employer were “the sole responsible cause of the maiming of [the plaintiff].”  Id. at 271. 

The Temple court then considered the liability of the original manufacturer of the press.  In that regard, the court, relying on the Restatement (Second) of […]

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