Friday, October 19, 2012

Bexiga v. Havir Manufacturing Corporation case brief

Bexiga v. Havir Manufacturing Corporation (1972)
60 N.J. 402

Procedural History
•    Plaintiffs, minor worker and his father, challenged an order of the Superior Court (New Jersey) that affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ action for negligence, strict liability in tort, and breach of warranty of fitness of purpose in a products liability case.

Facts
•    Plaintiff minor worker was injured while operating a machine for his employer, and he and plaintiff father filed an action for negligence, strict liability in tort, and breach of warranty of fitness of purpose against defendant manufacturer in a products liability case. The trial court dismissed the action and the superior court affirmed.
•    On appeal, the court reversed and ordered a new trial, holding that the evidence was sufficient to withstand a motion for dismissal on the theory of either negligence or strict liability. On the strict liability issue, the court determined that where there was an unreasonable risk of harm to the user of a machine that had no protective safety device, a jury could have inferred that the machine was defective in design unless it found that the manufacturer’s addition of a safety device would have rendered the machine unusable for its intended purposes. The court also found that defendant did not have the right as a matter of law to assume that the user would provide a safety device; thus, it was error to dismiss the negligence action. The court concluded that under the facts, the defense of contributory negligence was unavailable.

Issue
•    Is The defense of contributory negligence is unavailable of policy and justice dictate?

Rule
•    The defense of contributory negligence is unavailable of policy and justice dictate.
•    If the duty of the mfr.(defendant) Is to prevent the plaintiff from being negligent (installing safety equip.) then the plaintiff shouldn’t be held contributory negligent.

Application
•    Where there is an unreasonable risk of harm to the user of a machine which has no protective safety device, the jury may infer that the machine was defective in design unless it finds that the incorporation by the manufacturer of a safety device would render the machine unusable for its intended purposes.
•    Contributory negligence may be a defense to a strict liability action as well as to a negligence action. However, in negligence cases the defense has been held to be unavailable where considerations of policy and justice dictate.

Holding
•    We hold that under the facts presented to us in this case the defense of contributory negligence is unavailable.
•    The court reversed the superior court’s order affirming the dismissal of an action for negligence, strict liability in tort, and breach of warranty of fitness of purpose in a products liability case after plaintiff minor worker was injured while using a machine at work because the evidence was sufficient to withstand a motion for dismissal on the theory of either negligence or strict liability. A new trial was ordered.


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