Broussard v. Continental Oil Co.
433 So. 2d 354 (La. App. 1983)

Facts:

  • Broussard was badly burned in an explosion when sparks from a Black & Decker hand drill he was using ignited natural gas that was coming from a pipe.
  • He then brought suit for inadequate warnings.
  • The owner’s manual specifically warned of the risk:
    • Item 18 of the manual: “DO NOT OPERATE portable electric tools in gaseous or explosive atmospheres. Motors in these tools normally spark, and the sparks might ignite fumes.”
  • However, the only thing on the drill itself was “CAUTION: For Safe Operation See Owner’s Manual.”
  • Broussard argued that more should’ve been on the drill.
    • His expert presented the use of warnings through symbols as opposed to words, and also presented extremely condensed versions of some of the warnings in the manual in an effort to fit them on the drill.

History:
The jury ruled in favor of Black & Decker.

Issue:
Whether it was sufficient to put the gas warning in the owner’s manual or whether it was unreasonable under the circumstances not to put this warning on the drill itself.

Holding:
Sufficient. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • “We conclude that defendant acted reasonably toward plaintiff and all persons who might use its hand drill. In view of the numerous risks which a manufacturer of a hand drill must explicitly describe… the most practical and effective thing which the manufacturer could do is to direct the user to the owner’s manual as Black & Decker did.”
  • Basically, it’s not practical to try to cram a bunch of warnings onto an area as small as a drill, and even if you did, it would decrease the effectiveness the warnings. Thus, the best thing to do is to do is to instruct users to the manual.