The Law School Authority

McCormack v. Hankcraft Co. Case Brief

Summary of McCormack v. Hankcraft Co., 278 Minn. 322 (1967)

Facts: ?, a 3 year old child, was severely burnt when she tipped over a steam vaporizer manufactured by D and the scolding hot water escaped the jar.  The vaporizer was designed in a way that the top of the jar was couldn’t have been tightened to hold the water if vaporizer is tipped over.  Also, D didn’t include any warnings about the temperature of the water in the jar being scolding hot.  As a matter of fact, D presented its product to be safely used around young children without supervision.

Procedure:  The jury awarded ? $150,000 but district court granted JNOV.

Issue: Could the jury have found liability on the part of D based on the facts of this case?

Holding: Yes

Rationale:  The facts show that D was negligent in its failure to give any warning of the dangers inherent in the use of the vaporizer.  The danger in this case was not obvious and without any warning, ?’s parents could not have made themselves aware of such danger.  D knew or should have reasonably foreseen that the primary use of its vaporizer involved the danger that child might be severely burned by the rapid discharge of near-boiling water.  Furthermore, evidence in this case is sufficient to support liability of D on the grounds of adoption of an unsafe design.  It is well established that a manufacture, despite lack of privity of contract, has a duty to use reasonable care in designing its products so that those it should expect will use it are protected from unreasonable risk of harm while the product is being used for its intended use.  Inexpensive and safer alternatives were available that could have made the product safer. Also, evidence sufficient to support liability upon a breach of express warranty.  No particular words are required to constitute an express warranty.  As far as D’s argument on mother’s negligence, evidence doesn’t support this contention.  Actions of mother foreseeable and foreseeable intervention by a third party is not a superseding cause.

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