Court Determines Plaintiff’s Misuse of Product Precludes Subsequent Product Liability Lawsuit

When someone is injured by a dangerous or defective product, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia product liability lawsuit. Virginia product liability cases can be complex, as there are several different types of claims that can be brought. In a recent product liability case, the court discussed how a plaintiff’s incorrect use of the product that caused their injury can defeat a plaintiff’s claim.

The Factual Scenario

Per the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff owned a product called a die-grinder that the defendant manufactured. The grinder came with an instruction manual, describing how to safely use the tool. The manual warned users to always wear safety glasses when using the tool and to only use attachments that were rated above 25,000 RPM (revolutions per minute). The manual also warned users to only use the cut-off attachment if a safety shield was installed on the tool. The tool wasn’t equipped with a safety shield, and nowhere in the manual did the manufacturer inform users where to obtain a safety shield.

The plaintiff was assisting a friend with a project that required the use of the grinder’s cut-off wheel attachment. The plaintiff attached a cut-off wheel that was rated at only 19,000 RPM to the tool, which was not equipped with a safety shield. The plaintiff was wearing prescription glasses at the time, which he thought to be sufficient protection.

While the plaintiff was using the tool to help with his friend’s project, the cut-off wheel attachment broke from the tool, striking the plaintiff in the upper part of their face. Ultimately, the plaintiff’s injuries resulted in the loss of his eye. The plaintiff later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer/defendant, claiming that the product was defective and that the manufacturer did not include adequate warnings. The manufacturer denied liability based on the plaintiff’s incorrect use of the product.

The Court’s Opinion

The court held that, in general, a plaintiff’s incorrect use of a product could be a full defense to a subsequent product liability action. However, to benefit from this defense, the defendant must be able to prove the plaintiff’s incorrect use; mere allegations of misuse will not be sufficient. In this case, the court found that the defendant sufficiently established that the defendant misused the product.

The court explained that the plaintiff misused the product in “three distinct ways”: namely, by using the tool without safety glasses and by using an unapproved attachment without a safety shield. The court went on to explain that the defendant manufacturer could not foresee that a user would use the tool in such a way, and thus, the manufacturer could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The court relied on the fact that the plaintiff failed to follow the instruction manual in three different ways, indicating that had the plaintiff been more compliant with the instruction manual the result may have been different. As a result, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case by granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Thus, the plaintiff’s claims were never submitted to a jury.

Are You in Need of a Virginia Product Liability Attorney?

If you or someone you care about has been injured while using a defective or dangerous product in Virginia, you may be able to pursue a claim for monetary compensation. Virginia product liability laws are very complex, and these cases should be handled by dedicated Virginia personal injury attorneys with extensive experience in this specific area of the law. Attorney Sidney Schupak has decades of experience handling a wide range of Virginia personal injury claims, including those caused by dangerous or defective products. To learn more about how Attorney Schupak can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 703-491-7070 today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

See More Blog Posts:

Landowner Determined Not to Be Liable for Accident Caused by Untrimmed Foliage, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 29, 2018.

Plaintiff Injured by Closing Elevator Doors Permitted to Proceed with Claim Against Condo Association, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 20, 2018.

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