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April 8, 2008

New York Court Rules Circumstantial Evidence of Product Defect Inadequate

In Ramos v. Howard Industries, N.Y., No. 26, March 13, 2008), the New York Court of Appeals dimissed an electrical lineman's suit against an electrical transformer manufacturer for his failure to rule out causes of the transformer's explosion other than product defect.  Ramos first claimed that he had injured his back when he reached out of an aerial bucket while installing the transformer on a pole.  Two years later, he claimed that the transformer had exploded and knocked him over within the bucket.  By the time he described the explosion, the transformer itself could not be located for inspection or testing.

The court said that circumstantial evidence of a defect is enough to prove a product defective but that the plaintiff must prove that the product did not perform as intended and must rule out all other causes of the failure - the essential, traditional criteria for a res ipsa instruction to the jury.  Ramos would have to offer enough competent evidence to rebut any evidence of alternative causes but Ramos' expert's theory amounted to "pure speculation" from which no reasonable jury could conclude that all other causes of the transformer explosion were excluded.  Accordingly, the court upheld the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant manufacturer.  See the Product Liability Daily report.

JDP

April 8, 2008 | Permalink

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