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Smith v. Ingersoll-Rand Co.
Alaska Supreme Court
14 P.3d 990 (2000)
Dan Smith (plaintiff), a light duty mechanic, filed a strict products liability suit in federal district court after a door on an air compressor manufactured by Ingersoll-Rand Company (Ingersoll-Rand) (defendant) fell on his head and caused him to suffer serious injuries. At the time of the incident, Smith, who was not wearing his hard hat, propped open the compressor door in order to start the engine. There was no latch on the compressor door to hold it open. Whether from wind, vibration, or improper placement the door fell from its open position and hit Smith’s head. Smith did not immediately suffer serious injuries. However, eleven days after the incident he began to experience seizures and was later diagnosed with traumatic epilepsy. Since the accident, Smith consistently suffered from repeated seizures, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, lapses in memory, and other related medical problems. Following three jury trials and a remand from the Ninth Circuit, the United States District Court for the District of Alaska certified a question to the Alaska Supreme Court, namely “[D]id the 1986 Tort Reform Act change the existing law on comparative fault in products liability cases such that a plaintiff’s failure to exercise ordinary care is now sufficient to raise a jury question on comparative fault?”
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Matthews, C.J.)
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