Work Related Injury Resulten In a Lawsuit Agains Manufacturer of Transmission Jack
In Baltus v. Weaver Division of Kidde & Co., 199 Ill. App. 3d 821, 557 N.E.2d 580, 145 Ill. Dec. 810 (1990), a mechanic, who was injured when a transmission he was working on slipped off a transmission jack and injured his hand, sued the manufacturer of the transmission jack on a negligent-design theory. Baltus, 199 Ill. App. 3d at 824, 557 N.E.2d at 582.
The plaintiff in Baltus alleged generally that the manufacturer negligently failed to design the transmission jack with appropriate safety guards and safety devices, but he had no expert testimony to support his claims. Baltus, 199 Ill. App. 3d at 824-25, 557 N.E.2d at 582.
The manufacturer presented the testimony of a registered professional engineer that the transmission jack was in a reasonably safe condition when it left the manufacturer's control and that it was manufactured and designed in a reasonably safe manner. Baltus, 199 Ill. App. 3d at 825, 557 N.E.2d at 583.
In affirming the circuit court's grant of a summary judgment to the defendant, the Baltus court compared negligent-product-design cases to medical malpractice cases and held that these cases generally require both expert testimony and proof of a standard of care against which the manufacturer's design can be judged. Baltus, 199 Ill. App. 3d at 836, 557 N.E.2d at 589.
Because the plaintiff produced no evidence of reasonable and feasible alternative designs in the industry and because his claim of negligent design was based solely upon his opinion, the evidentiary basis of his claim was insufficient to withstand a summary judgment. Baltus, 199 Ill. App. 3d at 829-30, 557 N.E.2d at 585.
In Carrizales v. Rheem Manufacturing Co., 226 Ill. App. 3d 20, 36, 589 N.E.2d 569, 580, 168 Ill. Dec. 169 (1991), the plaintiff was injured "when flammable vapors from his gasoline-soaked clothing were ignited by the flame of a gas-fired hot water heater." Carrizales, 226 Ill. App. 3d at 23, 589 N.E.2d at 571-72.
The plaintiff's negligent-product-design claim was dismissed by the trial court. Carrizales, 226 Ill. App. 3d at 23, 589 N.E.2d at 572.
On appeal, the court reversed the dismissal of the plaintiff's failure-to- warn claim, but it affirmed the dismissal of the negligent-product-design claim, stating as follows:
"Plaintiff in this case failed to plead facts alleging that other manufacturers designed heaters with any of the alternative safety features or designs that plaintiff set out in his complaint.
Because plaintiff does not establish a standard of care by which to measure defendant's design, it cannot be determined by the pleadings whether defendant negligently manufactured a defective product because it did not conform to such a standard.
In a complex products liability case such as this, we may not find defendant negligently designed the heater by simply relying on plaintiff's opinion." Carrizales, 226 Ill. App. 3d at 37, 589 N.E.2d at 581.