A plaintiff buys a chainsaw, which is powered by a small gasoline engine. The saw comes with a 35-page owner’s manual. The front cover of the manual includes a heading, in all capital letters, that says: “IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS INSIDE. READ ENTIRE MANUAL BEFORE USING PRODUCT.” This heading appears in black type on a white background.
Page 25 of the manual explains how to put gas in the engine, but does not include any warnings about emissions. Page 34 is filled with a numbered list of 12 items under the heading, “Safety Warnings.” Item four on the list states, “Engine fumes may accumulate in enclosed spaces and cause injury or death. To prevent exposure to fumes, only use saw outdoors.” There are no other emissions-related warnings in the manual, nor are there any on the saw itself.
The day after the purchase, the plaintiff decides to saw some small logs into pieces to make a garden bench. It begins to rain, so the plaintiff carries the logs into a small, enclosed workshop built within the plaintiff’s garage. The workshop has a single entry door and no ventilation. The plaintiff closes the door and begins to cut the logs.
As the plaintiff works, the saw’s engine emits carbon monoxide, a poisonous, invisible gas that is a byproduct of burning gasoline. The carbon monoxide accumulates in the workshop and causes the plaintiff to become dizzy. Consequently, the plaintiff drops the running saw to the floor. On the way down, the saw’s chain grazes the plaintiff’s leg, causing a severe laceration and blood loss.
The plaintiff sues the manufacturer in tort, claiming that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding the risks of operating the saw indoors.
QuestionIs the manufacturer liable under the plaintiff’s theory of inadequate warnings or instructions? Explain.
Is the manufacturer liable under the plaintiff’s theory of inadequate warnings or instructions? Explain.