Fasolas v. Bobcat of New York Appellate Division (April 1, 2017)

A typical argument made by the plaintiffs and their experts in a design defect/ product liability case is that “Safety should never be an option.” Over the years, however, New York courts have recognized that optional safety features are perfectly appropriate under the right circumstances. If a safety feature is disadvantageous under certain conditions of use and the product can be safely used without it under those conditions, the courts have sometimes ruled that the purchaser is in a better position than the manufacturer to decide whether the safety feature is appropriate for the purchaser’s specific uses − even where the end user/injured party is not necessarily the purchaser. In cases where the purchaser is the end user’s employer, it has been held that the purchaser, as opposed to the manufacturer, was in a better position to decide whether the safety feature was appropriate for the employee’s uses. The leading example is Scarangella v. Thomas Built Buses, Inc., 717 N.E.2d 679 (NY 1999).
Continue Reading Equipment Manufacturers: Beware of the Rental Yard Customer When Safety Features Are Optional

Military jet on blue sky_SS_41245870The government contractor defense is a potentially dispositive defense that can be raised by contractor-defendants in certain product liability cases. Understanding the basics of this defense, and in particular the requirements and scope of its application, is extremely important to companies that provide products with a military application. Quite often, the government contractor defense becomes the focal point in product liability matters involving aviation equipment. The application of the defense is not always clear-cut, particularly when a product is sold to both the government and the general public.

Thus, we advise clients to get out in front of this issue by immediately conducting the necessary fact gathering to determine whether the relevant factors might be satisfied.

Continue Reading The Government Contractor Defense

NYS-map-by-county-in-blue_SS_31096804Products used in an industrial setting, such as forklift trucks, are typically designed to offer the purchaser the option of choosing certain safety features and excluding others that are available. The particular setting where the product will be used (its operating environment) will dictate which safety features are necessary, which may be undesirable, or in some instances, which may increase the risk of injury to the user. At the end of the day, New York courts have held that the decision as to which optional safety feature is appropriate is the responsibility of the purchaser – not the manufacturer – if it can be shown that the purchaser possesses sufficient knowledge about the product and the environment where it will be used.

Continue Reading Optional Safety Features: Let the Sophisticated Purchaser Decide