A product may contain a design defect as the result of a manufacturing flaw, improper design or a failure to warn. (Sage v. Fairchild-Swearingen Corp., 70 NY2d 579; Sukljian v. Ross & Son Co., 69 NY2d 89).
In a cause of action alleging a design defect, the basis for the claim is that the entire product is defective. (See, Sage v. Fairchild-Swearingen Corp., supra.)
To recover under a strict products liability or negligence theory for sale of a defectively designed product, it is well established that a plaintiff must plead and prove that there was a feasible design alternative that would have made the product safer. Thus, a plaintiff must establish that it was feasible to design the product in a safer manner ( Voss v. Black & Decker Mfg. Co., 59 NY2d 102).
In Forni v. Ferguson the Appellate Division, First Department, considered the issues of design defect and negligence with respect to a semiautomatic handgun, ammunition and magazine which were used in an horrendous assault on passengers aboard a commuter train.
Since the sale and ownership of said items were legally permitted and plaintiffs failed to satisfactorily allege the existence of a legally cognizable defect in the condition of the items in question, the Court dismissed the claims.
The Court held that as a matter of law, a product's defect is related to its condition, not its intrinsic function.
The appellate court further held that the plaintiffs could not maintain a cause of action for negligence since plaintiffs could not show that manufacturing defendants owed plaintiffs a duty of care, that the manufacturers breached their duty of care, and that the manufacturers' breach of their duty of care was the proximate cause of plaintiffs' injuries.
The Court found that there is no duty upon a manufacturer to refrain from the lawful distribution of a nondefective product.