A New York appeals judge recently decided to overturn a previous dismissal of a defective product lawsuit against a lye manufacturer. The court that heard the initial lawsuit dismissed the case before it went to trial. The appeals court ruled that the lye company’s defense was not sufficient to allow a dismissal of the case. The new ruling could change the way courts look at dangerous products sold to the public. It may also help injured consumers win more cases.
Packaging Did Not Properly Warn of Danger
In the case Yun Tung Chow v Reckitt & Colman, Inc., case 69 AD3d 413, the defendant suffered a severe injury when he poured too much lye into a clogged drain. The lye splashed up, burned his face and blinded him in one eye. The Manhattan restaurant worker sued the manufacturer, distributor and package designer of Red Devil Lye, because the product was too dangerous.
The lye company presented three arguments in favor of its defense. First, the label was clearly marked, “May result in splash back and cause serious injury.” Second, lye is a known dangerous substance. Third, the restaurant manager did not take the proper precautions as directed on the label. He did not wear gloves and goggles, failed to use only one tablespoon and did not keep his face away from the area.
Lawsuit Originally Dismissed
When a local court heard the case, the judge agreed that the package bore clear directions and warnings. The judge dismissed the case, and a second court agreed with the dismissal. Mr. Chow took the case to an appeals court, presenting an expert that argued the company could have diluted the lye to a safer consistency. It would work just as well, but pose less risk of injury.
The judge decided that the lye company failed to counter the argument adequately, providing no expert testimony to rebut the Plaintiff’s expert. The defense argued that diluting the product would make it less useful, causing it to work more slowly. However, if a safer and just as useful alternative was available, the court will likely rule for Mr. Chow. The appeals court judge reinstated the case noting he would let the trial show the facts needed to determine if “Red Devil Lye’s utility outweighed its inherent danger.” 
Ruling Could Make Defective Product Suits Easier to Win
The fact that the judge is allowing the case back in court gives hope to those who suffered injuries from defective products. The ruling gives more power to the consumer and places more responsibility on manufacturers to prove their products are safe.
If you or someone you love suffered an injury because of a defective product, contact our office right away. This first meeting is free, and our experienced attorneys will discuss your case in detail to learn the facts and help you decide what to do next.