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ARTICLE ID 31487

$________ - PRODUCTS LIABILITY - NEGLIGENTLY DESIGNED SNOWBLOWER RESULTS IN AMPUTATION INJURY TO PLAINTIFF.

Norfolk County, Mass.

This was a products liability action brought by the male plaintiff for injuries suffered to his major hand while operating a snowblower manufactured by the defendant. The plaintiff contended that the subject snowblower was defectively designed in that it lacked adequate safeguarding to prevent insertion of the hand into the discharge chute. The plaintiff’s cause of action sounded in theories of negligent design and breach of warranty.

The evidence adduced at trial indicated that the defendant Ariens Company began manufacturing snowblowers in ________. During the ________-________ model year, the defendant’s snowblowers were equipped with deadman’s controls which caused the rotating impeller to stop when the operator left the point of operation area behind the machine. The plaintiff purchased his snowblower in a used condition. It had been manufactured by the defendant in the ________- ________ model year. The plaintiff’s snowblower did not have a deadman’s control or an "M" guard which protects against entry of a hand into the discharge chute of the snowblower. The defendant added an M-guard to its snowblowers during the ________-________ model year. Deadman’s controls were added by the defendant to its p 7 3 snowblower a second time beginning in the ________-75 model year.

The subject accident occurred on January 26, ________, as the plaintiff was operating the subject snowblower. The plaintiff left the controls behind the machine, walked to the right side intending to disengage the clutch prior to moving the snowblower into the garage when he slipped on the driveway. The plaintiff’s right major hand entered the discharge chute and four fingers were traumatically amputated.

The plaintiff’s expert mechanical engineer contended that the defendant was negligent in the design of the subject snowblower and breached its warranty by failing to provide a deadman’s control and/or by failing to incorporate an "M" guard. The plaintiff further asserted that the defendant failed to provide adequate warnings of the danger presented by the unguarded impeller. Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert maintained that the snowblower was negligently designed in that the clutches were situated on the right hand side of the machine where the operator could come within inches of the unprotected impeller while attempting to disengage the clutches.

The defendant denied that the design of the snowblower was unreasonably dangerous and offered ANSI standards which allegedly showed that deadman’s controls were not required on snowblowers until ________. The defendant also maintained that the plaintiff’s comparative negligence and unreasonable use of the machine was the sole cause of his injury. The defendant elicited admissions from the plaintiff that he knew that the impeller was a danger, that he knew that he was using it in slippery conditions, and that he nonetheless left the rear of the snowblower to disengage the clutches when the discharge chute was facing in the direction of those clutches.

The medical evidence indicated that the plaintiff suffered the traumatic amputation of four fingers on his right dominant hand.

His medical bills were less than $________. He returned to work in less than one week after the injury.

The jury found the plaintiff 55% comparatively negligent, resulting in a defendant’s verdict on the negligent count.

However, the plaintiff prevailed on the breach of warranty count because the jury also concluded that the plaintiff did not proceed voluntarily and unreasonably to use the snowblower. The jury also found in favor of the defendant on the consortium claim asserted by the plaintiff’s wife. The jury awarded $________ which was increased to $________ with interest.

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