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Rivers v. AT & T Tech., Inc – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Rivers v. AT & T Tech., Inc., 147 Misc 2d 366, 554 N.Y.S.2d 401 (Sup. Ct. NY Co. 1990), DMF manufactured at the defendant's facility worked its way through the chain of distribution and ultimately came to be incorporated into a dataphone at the decedent's place of work.

The defendant, DuPont, had manufactured DMF since the 1930's and supplied approximately one half of the United States market with the compound.

DuPont's normal practice was to deliver the chemical in railroad tank cars, tank trucks and 55-gallon steel drums to its distributors. The distributors then customarily sold the chemical to manufacturers to be used as an electrolytic industrial solvent in capacitors. One such capacitor was used to build a dataphone that was sold to a telephone company, which then supplied it to the plaintiff's employer.

The decedent was critically injured when exposed to the chemical's fumes which had leaked from the capacitor.

Among other things, the Rivers court found the distributors themselves to be responsible intermediaries. In so holding, the court stated that DuPont had no duty to warn the decedent of the toxicological characteristics of its product because she was "too remote in the chain of distribution" and that DuPont had satisfied any remaining burden by "providing extensive warnings to its immediate distributees." Id. at 372.