Griggs v. BIC Corp., 981 F.2d 1429, 1435 (3d Cir. 1992). The Third Circuit pointed out in Griggs that the analysis necessary to a determination of strict liability is different than the analysis of negligence. Foreseeability has no place in the former; it is an integral part of the latter. Id. at 1435. Thus, the Griggs court stated that "holding 'no duty' in strict liability does not per se eliminate consideration of the duty factor in negligence law." Id. What duty, if any, Toro owed plaintiff, is a question of law that I must consider.
To succeed on a claim of negligence, a plaintiff must establish: (1) a duty or obligation recognized by the law, requiring the actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct; (2) a failure to conform to the required standard; (3) a causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) actual loss or damage resulting. Kleinknecht v. Gettysburg College, 989 F.2d 1360, 1366 (3d Cir. 1993); Griggs, 981 F.2d at 1434 (citations omitted). If the defendant does not owe a duty to the injured plaintiff, then defendant has no tort liability to the plaintiff. The test of negligence is whether the wrongdoer could have foreseen the likelihood of harm to the plaintiff resulting from defendant's conduct. Griggs, 981 F.2d at 1435 (citations omitted). If the risks attending defendant's conduct were foreseeable, the last part of a traditional duty analysis is whether the foreseeable risks were unreasonable. I find that they were not.
For the purposes of defendant's motion for summary judgment, I will assume that the risks of Toro's acts -- not installing a ROPS, not using a disc braking system, and not having a different center of gravity -- were foreseeable. The Third Circuit has predicted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would employ a risk-utility analysis to determine if the foreseeable risks were unreasonable. Griggs, 981 F.2d at 1435-36. The analysis balances "the risk, in light of the social value of the interest threatened, and the probability and extent of the harm, against the value of the interest which the actor is seeking to protect." Id. at 1436.
As discussed above, the risk of death from a lawn tractor is estimated at 75 deaths per year, or one death for every 102,000 riding mowers in operation. I note that this is substantially less than the number of deaths at issue in the Griggs case, which addressed the issue of whether the defendant in that case, a manufacturer of disposable cigarette lighters, had a duty to make the lighters childproof.
This probability and gravity of risk must be balanced against the utility of Toro's conduct in question. It is this part of the equation -- rather than the difference in the number of deaths per year -- that distinguishes this case from Griggs. Unlike the defendant in Griggs, Toro's interest in designing its tractor with the features it has -- or, put another way, in not employing those suggested by plaintiff -- was not "one of cost and its own economic health." Id. Rather, as I found in the discussion of the fourth Shetterly factor above, Toro's interest in not using a rollbar or different braking system, or making the tractor heavier or wider, was premised on safety and utility. Cost was not a factor. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. D).
On balance, Toro's interest in the safety and utility of the Model 416-8, which it has argued would be impaired by the design features suggested by plaintiff (or, in the case of disc brakes, would not have made a difference in regard to the accident), outweighs the relatively low probability of death from the tractor. In such circumstances, the foreseeable risk of Toro's conduct in not redesigning the tractor would not be unreasonable. Therefore, Toro had no duty to plaintiff to redesign the Model 416-8, and Toro's motion for summary judgment on negligence claims regarding the tractor's design must be granted.
The duty to warn is a different matter. Holding that Toro had no duty to redesign the tractor does not mean that Toro had no duty to warn Mrs. Monahan about dangers associated with its use. Assuming that Toro had a duty to warn about possible hazards concerning operation of the tractor, the question is whether plaintiff can establish that insufficient warnings caused Mrs. Monahan's injury. Kleinknecht, 989 F.2d at 1366.
Plaintiff does not assert that Toro failed to provide any warnings about the Model 416-8. Rather, Monahan claims that the warnings which Toro provided both on the machine and in the operator's manual were neither proper nor adequate. The warnings are described above, as is plaintiff's suggested alternative that more specifically articulates the hazard of a rollover. While plaintiff has offered a different version of a warning, plaintiff has offered no evidence to suggest that Mrs. Monahan could not see the warnings which were provided, that she did not read them, or that she was unable to understand them. Instead, plaintiff claims that the warnings should have been more precise about the danger of using the tractor on a slope and the possibility of rollover. Plaintiff's argument is flawed, however, because Mrs. Monahan was well aware of the danger of a rollover even without a warning expressly stating it. She had had a rollover in the spring of 1991, one year before the fatal accident. (Sean Monahan Dep. at 64). Thus, the plaintiff can point to no evidence that would show that the alleged insufficiency of defendant's warnings -- not explicitly illustrating and warning of the hazard of a rollover -- in any way caused Mrs. Monahan's accident because unrefuted evidence shows that Mrs. Monahan was independently aware of the danger of using the tractor on a slope. Therefore, defendant's motion for summary judgment on the issue of negligence for failure to warn must be granted.
On the question of strict liability, I hold that, upon analysis of the evidence in light of the Shetterly factors, the Toro Model 416-8 tractor was not "unreasonably dangerous" as a matter of law. On the claims of negligence, I hold that defendant had no duty to redesign the tractor. Further, defendant was not negligent with regard to the tractor's warnings. Therefore, defendant's motion for summary judgment on the claims of strict liability and negligence must be granted.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 30th day of June, 1994, it is hereby ordered that the motion for summary judgment of defendant, the Toro Company, is GRANTED, and judgment is entered for defendant and against plaintiff.
BY THE COURT: . William Ditter, Jr., J.