Murray v. Fairbanks Morse Case Brief

Summary of Murray v. Fairbanks Morse, (3rd Cir. 1979)

Procedure: Action for strict liability in tort; jury trial; judgment for p; verdict for p. The p was found 5% contributory to his injuries; therefore the judge reduced the verdict accordingly. The D motioned for a new trial, which was not granted, D appeals and p cross appeals, appellate court affirmed.

Cast of Characters:

The p is an instrument fitted who was working at an Oil Refinery installing an electric control panel when he was injured.

The D is the manufacturer of the electric control panel.

Facts: On July 21, 2974, p and a co-worker were at Hess Oil Refinery installing an electric control panel that the D manufactures. The panel was built by D under Litwin’s engineer approval. The engineer intended to install the panel on a platform over an open space about 10 feet above a concrete floor. While installing, p put his weight on an iron cross leaning over the open space where the panel was to be placed. The iron cross member gave way and p fell about 10 feet incurring severe injuries to his spine. The D argued that p assumed the risk by standing on the iron cross members, but the jury only found the p 5% liable for his actions.

Issue: Whether a p can be contributory to his injuries as a result of a faulty product and still recover under SLT in tort?

Holding: Yes

Reasoning:

·“When p’s conduct is faulty, i.e., he exposes himself to an unreasonable risk of harm which causes part of his injuries, the manufacturer should not be required to pay that portion of the loss attributed tot he p’s fault."

o Therefore, if the D can prove that the p contributed to his injuries, that p was a substantial factor in his injuries, p can only recover what part of the injury he is not liable for.

· “Under this system, fault is ascribed to the D once his product is found to be defective. If fault on the part of the p is also resent, the trier of fact shall reduce the damage award in proportion to the p’s casual contribution to his own injury. Under our holding, the p shall not be barred from recovery even if his fault is determined to be greater than that of the D."



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