Gigus v. Giles & Ransome, Inc.
868 A.2d 459 (Pa. Super.2005)

Facts:

  • Appellant was injured during the course of her employment while operating an excavator which was equipped with a hydraulic hammer and tool point.
    • Appellant was using the machinery to chop rocks when a piece of the hammer tool point broke off, flew into the cab of the excavator and struck Appellant in the shoulder.
    • It was undisputed that at the time of the accident Appellant did not have in place the safety glass windshield which came equipped with the excavator.
  • Appellants proceeded to trial before a jury claiming the product was unsafe because it failed to include a Lexan shield and because it did not come equipped with certain specific warnings.

History:

  • Motions for non-suit were made by all Appellees and granted by the trial court.
    • Appellants did not present any evidence to establish that the windshield of the excavator would have failed to protect Appellant from her injury had it been in place.
    • The court also noted that the excavator included a warning sticker on the side of the windshield, as well as a diagram which displayed improper use.

Issue:
Whether appellant was required to prove that the windshield provided on the equipment would not have protected Appellant had it been used.

Holding:
Yes. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • Products liability requires that a plaintiff show that the product was defective when it left the hands of the manufacturer and that the defect was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
  • Here, the court held that “for Appellants to succeed in their product liability action, it was necessary for them to prove that the product would not have been safe even if the warnings were followed and the windshield was in place when the fragment flew toward the operator… Thus, if the excavator in this case was safe for use had its warnings been heeded, and the protective windshield been placed up at the time of operation, it was not defective.”
  • Basically, whether or not a Lexan shield would’ve offered more protection is irrelevant because it wasn’t established that the safety feature offered was insufficient in the first place.

Rule: Where a product is safe for use when its warnings are followed, it generally is not defective.