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One Warning on Snow Thrower is Enough

January 5, 2024

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Plaintiffs cannot insist manufacturers warn against dangers that may arise if warnings that are stated are not heeded.  Plaintiff Robert Brewer injured his middle finger when he placed his hand in the blades of a snow thrower he believed to be turned off. Brewer v. Troy-Bilt LLC, 2023 WL 7167564, at 1 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 31, 2023).  Brewer brought a claim against the manufacturer of the snow thrower alleging that there “were not adequate warnings on the machine itself alerting him to the danger of cleaning a clog without removing the ignition key.”  Id. at 2.

The snow thrower's manual contained multiple warning regarding the engines, blades, and their operations.  Id. at *1.  The machine itself contained “warnings to keep hands and feet away from the blades and discharge chute, and warnings to shut off the engine before using the clean-out tool to clear a clog.”  Id.

Brewer inserted his hand in the discharge chute to clear a clog in the chute, when the snow thrower allegedly started and the blades began to rotate.  Id.

While plaintiffs conceded that the warning existed in the manual, plaintiffs argued that that warning should have been additionally placed on the machine.  Id. at *3.  Furthermore, the machine had a warning specifically to not place one’s hands in the discharge chute, and Brewer was aware of the warning.  Id.  However, plaintiffs sought an additional warning “that would have instructed Mr. Brewer to make sure the machine was fully powered down by removing the ignition key before disregarding the existing warnings and putting his hand in the discharge chute.”  Id.

The Court discussed a state case with similar facts where an injured employee “ignored warnings to keep her hands out of a meat blender and placed her hands in the blender when she thought it was turned off.”  Id. at 4.  That employee effectively “request[ed] that the court require a manufacturer to warn against dangers that may arise if the stated warnings are not heeded.”  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in that case, Davis v. Berwind Corp., 547 Pa. 260 (1997), reasoned that Pennsylvania law “presumes warnings will be obeyed.”  Id. at 5.

Thus, in the case at hand, it was enough that there was a “sufficiently prominent warning not to place one’s hand in the discharge chute,” id. at 4, and Brewer was aware of that warning.  Overall, this stands for the proposition that manufacturers do need not create additional warnings that “are only useful if the current warning is ‘blatantly ignored.’”  Id. at 5 (internal citations omitted).

Brewer v. Troy-Bilt LLC
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