The First Department, modifying Supreme Court in this products liability case where plaintiff severed his thumb using a router, determined: (1) the failure-to-warn cause of action based upon the product manual should have been dismissed because plaintiff testified he never read it; (2) the generalized failure-to-warn cause of cause properly survived summary judgment; and (3) the design defect cause of action alleging the router should have had an interlock device which would shut it down properly survived summary judgment. Whether plaintiff was familiar with the risk of amputation such that the defendant was relieved of the duty to warn is a question of fact. And whether the lack of an interlock device is a design defect is a question of fact (disagreeing with decisions from the Second Department):
… [T]he record contains evidence that plaintiff had knowledge of power tools other than the router and the general hazards associated with cutting devices. Plaintiff also had used the router on one prior occasion at the premises before the accident. However, it is for a jury, not the court, to determine whether, based on the evidence and testimony presented, plaintiff had sufficient knowledge of the specific hazards from the use of the router to relieve defendants of their duty to warn of them. Further, whether the router presented an open and obvious danger is also a jury issue. * * *
The branch of defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the design defect claim based on the lack of an interlock was also properly denied. We recognize that the Second Department has held that such a claim is per se unviable in Chavez v Delta Intl. Mach. Corp. (130 AD3d 667 [2d Dept 2015]), Patino v Lockformer Co. (303 AD2d 731 [2d Dept 2003]), and Giunta v Delta Intl. Mach. (300 AD2d 350 [2d Dept 2002]). Chavez (at 669), the most recent of these cases, cited Patino and Giunta for this proposition, and in Giunta (at 351), the Second Department held that a theory of liability that a “table saw should have been designed with an interlock which would have prevented the motor from starting if the blade guard was off. . . . was explicitly rejected as a matter of law in David v Makita U.S.A. (233 AD2d 145 [1st Dept 1996]), and implicitly rejected in Banks v Makita, U.S.A. (226 AD2d 659 [2d Dept 1996], lv denied 89 NY2d 805 ).”
However, we read neither David nor Banks as supporting Giunta’s conclusion. Vasquez v Ridge Tool Pattern Co., 2022 NY Slip Op 03488, First Dept 5-31-22
Practice Point: In this products liability case where plaintiff lost a thumb using a router, there was a question of fact whether plaintiff was familiar enough with the danger of amputation that the defendant should be relieved of liability for the failure to warn. Here the First Department, disagreeing with the Second Department, determined the absence of an interlock device which would shut the router down raised a question of fact on the design-defect cause of action.