The Law School Authority

Linegar v. Armour Case Brief

Summary of Linegar v. Armour, U. S. Ct App [1990]

Design Defects

Relevant Facts: During a routine traffic check, Tropper Linegar stopped van and ran the driver’s i/d.  The dispatcher relayed that the name on the license was an alias for another man wanted on a weapons charge.  Linegar and his partner Hines approached from opposing sides of the van, and asked the driver to exit.  The driver started firing w/ and automatic weapon.  Hines was wounded by three shots, Linegar was shot six times and died.  Five of the shots struck the vest he was wearing and did not cause injury.  One shot entered from his unprotected side of the vest.  The vest is one of several styles available on the market. On this style the sides of the vest were open.

Legal Issue(s): Whether under Missouri strict liability theory, contour-style vest worn by trooper at time he was murdered was defective and unreasonably dangerous as a matter of law

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: U S D Ct  jury verdict in favor of family, and manufacturer appealed. The Court of Appeals Reversed.

Law or Rule(s):  To recover under Missouri theory of strict liability in tort for defective design, plaintiff must prove that defendant sold product in course of its business, that product was then in defective condition unreasonably dangerous when put to reasonably anticipated use, that product was used in manner reasonably anticipated, and that plaintiff was damaged as direct result of such defective condition as existed when product was sold.

Court Rationale:   Missouri leaves the meaning of the phrase “unreasonably dangerous,” largely a matter of common sense, the cts or the jury’s.  Missouri S. ct has stated that a product is defectively designed if it creates and unreasonable risk of danger to the consumer or user when put to normal use.  It defies logic to suggest that Armour reasonably should have anticipated that anyone would wear its vest for protection of areas of the body that the vest obviously did not cover. A person wearing a vest would no more expect to be shielded from a shot taken under the arm than he would expect the vest to deflect bullets aimed at his head or neck or any other area not covered by the vest.  The vest’s purported dangerous defect–its lack of closure at the sides–could not have been more open and obvious.  No part of the vest nor any malfunction of the vest caused the injuries.  The vest was designed to prevent the penetration of bullets where there was coverage, and it did so; the amt of coverage was the buyer’s choice. The vest was neither defective nor unreasonably dangerous.

Plaintiff’s Argument: An open and obvious defense should not be allowed in a products liability action.  The vest’s design was defective b/c it allowed a bullet to cause an injury where it was designed to prevent that occurrence.

Defendant’s Argument: There was no evidence that the design of the vest caused the Trooper’s injury.




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