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Lavin v. Conte

Michigan Court of Appeals
2017 WL 3159682


Charles Lavin bought a boat hoist, canopy frame, and canopy from NuCraft (defendant). NuCraft provided assembly instructions for the hoist and canopy frame, but not for the canopy itself, which was heavy and difficult to install. According to Lavin, NuCraft’s vice president told him to hoist his boat and install the canopy from on top of it. NuCraft’s vice president claimed he did not instruct Lavin how to install the canopy and that others did it from ladders or docks beside the hoist. However, he admitted most people did actually install the canopy from atop a hoisted boat despite his warnings. Stickers on the hoist warned “Danger,” “Do not work or play on, around or under hoist with boat in,” “Do not allow people to occupy your craft or stand on the guideon while hoist is in raised position,” and “Do not work on craft in raised position.” Lavin nonetheless attempted to install the canopy from atop his hoisted pontoon boat. Lavin’s wife, Vanessa, stood on the pontoon seat, held the canopy overhead, and fell into shallow water, suffering spinal injuries. In the ensuing products-liability action, NuCraft moved for summary judgment on the Lavins’ negligent-design claim. The Lavins countered with an expert who had sketches of an alternative design allowing installation from the ground, but no manufacturers used it at the time. The trial court granted summary judgment as to the negligent-design claim, and the Lavins appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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