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Legal Memorandum: Jury Instructions of Foreseeable Misuse in IL

Issue: In Illinois, what is the standard definition of foreseeable misuse for use in Jury Instructions?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Foreseeable misuse; Standard definition; Ultimate in safety standard not required
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 398 U.S. 906; 390 N.E.2d 859; 710 F.2d 378; 541 N.E.2d 1206; 247 N.E.2d 401; 310 N.E.2d 1; 490 N.E.2d 987
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2005

Illinois law provides that a manufacturer may be liable under a theory of defective design if the injury arose out of a reasonably foreseeable misuse of the product.  See Kerns v. Engelke, 76 Ill.2d 154, 390 N.E.2d 859, 864 (1979); see also Skarski v. Ace-Chicago Great Dane Corp., 138 Ill. App. 3d 301, 306-07, 485 N.E.2d 1312, 1316 (1985). (manufacturer’s liability encompasses "those situations where the product is being used for the purpose for which it was intended or for which it is reasonably foreseeable that it may be used") (citing Winnett v. Winnett, 57 Ill.2d 7, 11, 310 N.E.2d 1 (1974)).  A manufacturer thus has a duty to design for foreseeable misuse.  A manufacturer is not, however "required to produce a product which represents the ‘ultimate in safety’" Kerns, 390 NE.2d at 865 (quoting Warner v. Kewanee Mach. & Conveyor Co., 711 F.2d 1060, 1066 (6th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 398 U.S. 906 (1970)).  There is no duty to design a product incapable of causing injury, or to incorporate safety features so as to guarantee no harm will come to every user no matter how careless or reckless.  Taylor v. Gerry’s Ridgewood, Inc., 141 Ill.App.3d 780, 95 Ill.Dec. 895, 899, 490 N.E.2d 987, 991 (1986).

Whether the misuse of a product is foreseeable is a question of fact which is measured by an objective standard. Kerns, 390 N.E.2d at 864.  "If the use of a […]

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