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Austin v. Lincoln Equipment Associates

888 F.2d 934 (1989)

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Austin v. Lincoln Equipment Associates

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

888 F.2d 934 (1989)

Facts

Otis Austin (plaintiff) was using a power roof sweeper manufactured by Garlock Equipment Company (Garlock) (defendant). Austin stopped it two to five feet from the roof's edge to add fuel. When Austin restarted the sweeper, it bucked backward, causing him to fall off the roof. Austin sued Garlock as manufacturer and Lincoln Equipment Associates, Inc. (Lincoln) (defendant) as seller, alleging the sweeper was defective. Austin's expert witness testified that using a spring pin in the interlock mechanism between the brush and wheel clutches was a poor design. Austin testified that the sweeper had never bucked backward before. Austin never read a warning label that cautioned against using it within 10 feet of the edge of a roof. Garlock argued it was not liable, because Austin had assumed the risk and misused the sweeper at a dangerous location. Garlock argued that using a product in a manner contrary to manufacturer warnings is misuse and breaks the chain of causation between any defect and the injury. Garlock relied on comment j of § 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts to argue that it was not liable because although Austin used the sweeper for a normal purpose, he ignored the warning and used it in a careless manner. The jury found Garlock strictly liable, Lincoln not liable, and that Austin did not assume the risk but that he was 60 percent negligent. The district court denied Garlock’s motions for a directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or a new trial. Garlock appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bownes, J.)

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