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Keep Your Hands to Yourself (NY)

July 2, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">This case should serve as a cautionary tale to manufacturers or business owners who choose to modify machinery. In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Mercedes-v.-248-JD-Food-Corp.-et-al.pdf">Mercedes v. 248 JD Food Corp. et al</a>,</em> (2020 NY Slip Op 03592), plaintiff was a butcher at a Bravo Supermarket in the Bronx who had a work-related accident involving a meat grinder. As he was cleaning the hopper [a basin with rotating paddles where the ground meat drops into], the mixing paddles suddenly started rotating, causing serious injury to his hand. Plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the meat grinder, ITW Food Equipment Group, LLC, under products liability claims alleging it was unsafe and defective.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Defendant ITW moved for summary judgment along with a report from an engineer arguing plaintiff’s injury resulted from a post-sale modification to the meat grinder. It was shown that the product included a magnetic safety mechanism that would have prevented such an accident and the machine was re-wired to bypass it. The engineer opined the meat grinder was made to industry standards and was sold by ITW in safe condition. Defendant ITW’s summary judgment motion was granted and the First Dept. affirmed the ruling. Under certain circumstances, a manufacturer is strictly liable for any defects or design in the machinery it sells, or if it is proven the machine left the manufacturer in an un-safe condition. Here, the court agreed that a manufacturer is not liable for harm that results from modification by a third-party rendering a safe product defective. But for the safety mechanism being disabled, the injury would not have occurred. In this instance, manufacturer’s liability was cut off when another party removed the safety mechanism.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">A manufacturer designs and sells a product with specifications for its intended use. If anyone modifies, alters, changes, or chooses to use a manufactured product in any way other than its intended use, then liability to the manufacturer will cut-off and you will be left holding the bag.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Raymond Gonzalez for his contribution to this post.  Please contact <a href="mailto:vterrasi@wcmlaw.com">Vincent Terrasi</a> with any questions or comments.</p>

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