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ARTICLE ID 19395

Products liability - Failure to warn of potential for chain assembly of water treatment facility to move when power is off - Plaintiff standing on four inch lip of elevated facility rests hand on chain - Failure to provide fixed maintenance platform - Hand dragged into point of operation - Partial loss of three fingers on dominant left hand.

Hudson County

The plaintiff maintenance employee for a public utility which owned and serviced a water treatment facility, related that he was using a movable platform on rollers to reach the elevated point of the facility at which he was required to work and contended that since he had difficulties reaching the work area, he stepped on a four inch lip of the treatment system that was slightly above him. The plaintiff contended that he rested his left hand on the chain which was situated over an opening of the mechanism when a counterweight shifted, resulting in his hand being dragged in. The power of the facility was off at the time.

The evidence disclosed that the defendant manufacturer had provided the component parts which were installed by a co- defendant. The plaintiff contended that the manufacturer should have supplied warnings advising that the chain would move when the power was off. The plaintiff further contended that the installer should have provided a permanent fixed work platform, obviating the need to use the lip.

The defendant manufacturer contended that the potential dangers were open and obvious and that such warnings were not necessary. The Court held that Suter applied and that the jury could not consider that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent. The defendants argued, however, that the cause of the incident was the actions of the plaintiff in placing his hand on the chain in close proximity to the opening.

The defendant installer contended that it appropriately followed the plans of the design engineering company, which was in bankruptcy and that if such a platform was necessary, the designers should have so instructed.

The plaintiff suffered the loss of the distal phalanx of three fingers on the left, dominant hand. The plaintiff has been retained by the employer in a different capacity. The plaintiff had also named the company which was the predecessor of the employer, contending that it was aware of the dangers and should have provided warnings when the employer, which owned the facility, took over. This defendant argued that it had no such duty and the Court concurred, dismissing this aspect at the close of plaintiff’s case.

The jury found for the remaining defendants.

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