Was a Defective Design of Harness and Alleged Inadequate Warning a Factor of Causing Injuries While Descending a Rock Climbing Wall

In Anaya v. Town Sports Intl., Inc. (44 AD3d 485, 843 N.Y.S.2d 599 [1st Dept 2007]), the plaintiff was injured while descending a rock climbing wall operated by defendant TSI. The plaintiff was injured because an employee of TSI had tied the plaintiff's safety line to a non-weight bearing loop on the harness rather than the anchor point on the harness. The plaintiff asserted causes of action sounding in negligence and strict products liability against the manufacturer and retailer. The First Department rejected their assertions that the TSI's employee's conduct was a superseding cause of plaintiff's injury as a matter of law: Here, TSI's employee testified that she knew the safety line was not to be tied to the gear loop. However, she did not know what purpose the gear loop served, and accidently tied the safety line to it. While it appears that this employee had minimal training on the proper use of the harness and had not read the manual or technical notice, the record does not permit a finding that the employee's conduct was unforeseeable as a matter of law. The record is replete with evidence indicating the foreseeability of the risk that novice users of the harness (or for that matter other inexperienced persons such as the employee) might mistakenly tie safety lines to gear loops. Had the harness been designed without a gear loop or with a weight bearing gear loop, or had clearer warnings been on the harness itself, the accident may have been prevented. Accordingly, triable issues of fact exist regarding whether the alleged defective design of the harness, the alleged inadequate warnings, or both, was a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs injuries. (id. at 487-488).