A state appellate court recently issued a decision in a product liability case that was filed by the widow of a man who was killed while working at a factory. While New Mexico product liability law differs from that which was applied by the court in this case, the case is still illustrative of how manufacturers can be held liable for products that are defectively designed or manufactured.
According to the opinion, the man worked at a paper plant, where his primary job was to operate a folder gluer. During his employment, he volunteered to train as a lift truck operator. On the day of the accident, a supervisor asked the man to use a lift truck to assist in unloading paper from a truck. After a few trips, the truck became lodged in a gap. The man and a colleague used a tow chain to try to get the lift truck off the dock. The truck had an alarm that was designed to sound if the parking brake was not applied. There were no chocks under the wheels, since they were not available, and the clamp was not lowered. As a result, when the man placed himself between the two trucks, the truck began to roll, and he was ultimately crushed by the impact.
The man’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several parties, one being the manufacturer. She argued that the truck was negligently designed, and there was a breach of warranty. She specifically argued that the parking brake was negligently designed. The lawsuit went through several appeals and was ultimately heard by the state supreme court.