Linegar v. Armour of America, Inc.
909 F.2d 1150 (8th Cir. 1990)

Facts:

  • Linegar was a police offer shot and killed in the line of duty.
  • He was wearing a bulletproof vest manufactured by Armour.
  • The vest had front and back protective panels, but nothing along the sides of the bod under the arms (there was only Velcro there holding the panels together).
    • This allowed for greater flexibility and breathability as opposed to the more protective options. It was also cheaper.
  • Linegar was shot a total of 6 times (5 in the vest), but the fatal bullet hit him between his ribs, where he was exposed.
  • His family brought a products liability suit for defective design.

History:
The trial jury found that the bullet-resistant vest manufactured by Armour and worn by Linegar at the time of the murder was defectively designed, and it awarded his family $1.5 million in damages.

Issue:
Whether the contour vest Trooper Linegar was wearing when he was murdered was defective and unreasonably dangerous.

Holding:
No. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • Trooper Linegar’s protective vest performed precisely as expected and stopped all of the bullets that hit it. No part of the vest nor any malfunction of the vest caused Linegar’s injuries.
  • To hold Armour liable for Linegar’s death would cast it in the role of insurer for anyone shot while wearing an Armour vest, regardless of whether any shots penetrated the vest.
  • The decision to allow the market to choose between two types of products is properly viewed as one based on the lack of a duty on the manufacturer to impose the same design on all users.

Rule: A manufacturer is NOT obligated to market only one version of a product, that being the very safest design possible.