Wrongful Death Action - Student Electrocuted in a University

In Reeves v. Ille Electric Company (1976) 170 Mont. 104 [551 P.2d 647], the Montana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of statute against due process and equal protection challenges. Reeves also was a wrongful death action, brought by the administrator of the estate of a deceased college student who was electrocuted while taking a whirlpool bath in a university field house. The administrator sued the whirlpool manufacturer, the electrical company that installed the whirlpool, and the architect who designed the field house. Judgment in favor of the architect and installation contractor was upheld under the architects' and builders' statute, but reversed as to the manufacturer. The court reasoned that the whirlpool manufacturer was a "materialman," (A "materialman" is "a person who supplies materials used in constructing or repairing a structure or vehicle." (Black's Law Dict. (7th ed. 1999) p. 991, col. 2.) EXCLUDED FROM STATUTORY PROTECTION: "Ille took no part in the construction of the field house or in the related phases of the whirlpool installation. It simply manufactured the whirlpool machine and shipped it to Montana State University. Plaintiff alleges negligence in failure to warn of inherent dangers, failure to notify and instruct as to proper installation, and negligence in design of the whirlpool machine . . . . These allegations relate to design and manufacture of the Ille whirlpool machine. Ille was no part of the field house construction team. Ille simply furnished an appliance that was subsequently installed in the field house. As such, Ille was simply a materialman whose product was incorporated in the construction." (Id. at p. 653.)