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McLaughlin v. Mine Safety Appliances Co.

Court of Appeals of New York
181 N.E.2d 430 (1962)


Facts

In 1952, six-year-old Frances McLaughlin (plaintiff) almost drowned in a lake. McLaughlin was rescued from the lake in an unconscious state, and a nurse suggested that McLaughlin needed more heat. Two firemen on the scene retrieved heat blocks distributed by Mine Safety Appliances Company (MSAC) (defendant). The heat blocks contained a warning that additional insulation should be used before application, but the warning was only featured on the containers. The firemen removed the heat blocks from their packaging before handing the blocks to the nurse, who then applied the blocks directly to McLaughlin’s body, causing McLaughlin third-degree burns and a need for extensive treatment. McLaughlin brought a negligence action against MSAC to recover damages for her injuries. At trial, Paul Traxler, a fireman at the scene, testified that he had been instructed by MSAC regarding the need for additional insulation prior to application. Nevertheless, the trial court instructed the jury to find MSAC liable if the jury believed that a third party obtaining the heat blocks without the warning was reasonably foreseeable. The jury returned a verdict for McLaughlin. MSAC appealed, arguing that the jury instruction constituted reversible error.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Foster, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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