What Must a Plaintiff Prove to Establish a Negligence Claim for a Defective Design of a Product ?
To establish a negligence claim for a defective design of a product, a plaintiff must prove that either:
(1) the defendant deviated from the standard of care that other manufacturers in the industry followed at the time the product was designed or;
(2) that sic the defendant knew or should have known, in the exercise of ordinary care, that the product was unreasonably dangerous and defendant failed to warn of its dangerous propensity." Blue, 215 Ill. 2d at 96, 828 N.E.2d at 1141.
In Blue v. Environmental Engineering, Inc., 215 Ill. 2d 78, 828 N.E.2d 1128, 293 Ill. Dec. 630 (2005), the plaintiff was injured when he used his foot to push a box into a commercial trash compactor while it was running. Blue, 215 Ill. 2d at 83, 828 N.E.2d at 1134.
A consulting engineer testified for the plain tiff that the machine could have been made safe by incorporating certain safety features that were technologically available when the machine was manufactured, but he offered no testimony about the industry standard. Blue, 215 Ill. 2d at 83-84, 828 N.E.2d at 1134.
The majority opinion in Blue noted that a product suffers from a design defect when it "conforms to the intended design but the intended design itself, or its sale without adequate instructions or warnings, renders the product not reasonably safe." Blue, 215 Ill. 2d at 89-90, 828 N.E.2d at 1137 (citing Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability 1, Comment a, at 6 (1998)).
In Blue, the court cited with approval the appellate court opinions in Baltus v. Weaver Division of Kidde & Co., 199 Ill. App. 3d 821, 557 N.E.2d 580, 145 Ill. Dec. 810 (1990), and Carrizales v. Rheem Manufacturing Co., 226 Ill. App. 3d 20, 589 N.E.2d 569, 168 Ill. Dec. 169 (1991), and stated as follows:
"A plaintiff raising a negligence claim must do more than simply allege a better design for the product; he must plead and prove evidence of a standard of care by which to measure a defendant's design and establish a deviation from that standard.