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WILLIAM A. MCKAY v. SANDMOLD SYSTEMS (09/14/84)

filed: September 14, 1984.

WILLIAM A. MCKAY, APPELLANT,
v.
SANDMOLD SYSTEMS, INC., JELTEMA ELECTRICAL, INC., BEARDSLEY & PIPER, INC. AND PETTIBONE CORPORATION



No. 604 Pittsburgh, 1982, Appeal from Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. GD-79-7414.

COUNSEL

Barry M. Simpson, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Louis C. Long, Pittsburgh, for appellees.

Wieand, Tamilia and Popovich, JJ. Popovich, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Wieand

[ 333 Pa. Super. Page 236]

In a product liability case involving an alleged defect in the design of industrial machinery, how shall a jury be instructed? What standard shall be applied to determine whether the injury producing machinery was defectively designed? These are the issues presented by the present appeal. They are complex issues and not easily answered. In recent years, the development of the law of products liability in design defect cases has "turned into a swampy quagmire." J. Wade, On Product "Design Defects" and Their Actionability, 33 Vand.L.Rev. 551, 557 (1980).

William A. McKay, the appellant, was injured by the rotating plow blades of a muller when a fellow foundry worker pushed a starter button and started the machine while McKay was inside the plow area. In an action against Beardsley & Piper, Inc., the manufacturer of the muller, McKay contended that the muller had been defectively designed because it failed to contain an interlock or limit switch which would have made it impossible to start the muller while the inspection door was in an open position. McKay had entered the plow area of the muller through the inspection door to make repairs. He pulled a disconnect button when he entered and the door remained open. He assumed that the supply of electricity would thus be disconnected, but he did not "lock out" the disconnect or test the muller to verify that the electrical supply had been properly

[ 333 Pa. Super. Page 237]

    disconnected. A short time later, the operator of the muller activated the muller in order to make use of it as a part of the foundry's sand return system. The operator was unaware that McKay had entered the plow area for maintenance purposes. A jury found that the muller had not been defectively designed and returned a verdict for Beardsley & Piper, Inc., the appellee.*fn1 Post-trial motions were denied, and judgment was entered on the verdict.

The trial court left it to the jury to determine whether the muller had been designed defectively. It told the jury that appellee was a guarantor of the safety of its product. It said the appellant "must prove to your satisfaction that the product which was sold by the manufacturer was defective at the time it was sold" because it "did not have a limit switch on the door through which the plaintiff entered on the occasion of this accident." The court did not otherwise define "defective" and provided the jury with no standard which it should apply in determining whether the muller had been defectively designed. The trial court rejected specific points for charge submitted by appellant as follows:

2. The Manufacturer of a product is the guarantor of its safety. The product must, therefore, be provided with every element necessary to make it safe for use, and without any condition that makes it unsafe for use.

3. If you find that the muller, at the time it left Beardsley & Piper's control, lacked any element necessary to make it safe for use or contained any condition that made it unsafe for use, then the muller was defective, and Beardsley & Piper is liable for all harm caused by the defect.

Appellant contends that this was error.

In Azzarello v. Black Brothers Co., 480 Pa. 547, 391 A.2d 1020 (1978), the ...


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