Plaintiff, working on his son's farm, was engaged in feeding onions into an "onion topping" machine, when his hands became caught in its revolving steel rollers and were badly injured. He brought suit against defendants, manufacturers of the machine, alleging that they had been negligent in failing to equip it with a guard or stopping device. The sufficiency of the complaint is challenged by motion under rule 106 of the Rules of Civil Practice.
The topping machine, on wheels and attached to a tractor which supplied the power for its operation, consisted of four hard steel rollers about four feet long and three inches wide set in a rectangular iron frame with wooden sides. The cutting was accomplished by the revolving and grinding of the steel rollers. In order to start or stop it, it was necessary to shift the gear on the tractor about fifteen feet away from where the operator of the machine stood.
The complaint — as supplemented by a bill of particulars — alleges that defendants manufactured and sold to Henry Benthin an onion-topping machine and that in November of 1945, while plaintiff was assisting in the harvesting of a crop of onions on the farm of his son and while he was dumping a crate of onions into the machine, his hands became caught in its revolving
Since there is no claim of privity of contract between the defendant manufacturer and plaintiff, the complaint cannot, of course, be sustained on any theory of implied warranty. (See, e.g., Turner v. Edison Stor. Battery Co., 248 N.Y. 73.) If it is to be upheld, it must be because it states a cause of action in negligence. The Appellate Division ruled that it does not, and we agree.
The cases establish that the manufacturer of a machine or any other article, dangerous because of the way in which it functions, and patently so. owes to those who use it a duty merely to make it free from latent defects and concealed dangers. Accordingly, if a remote user sues a manufacturer of an article for injuries suffered, he must allege and prove the existence of a latent defect or a danger not known to plaintiff or other users. Examination of the complaint before us reveals the absence of any such recital. Apart from the purely conclusory allegations that the machine was negligently designed and constructed and was in a defective and imminently dangerous condition — which of course do not spell out a cause of action (see, e.g., Schweitzer v. Mindlin, 248 N.Y. 560; see, also, 3 Carmody on New York Practice [2d ed.], § 915, pp. 1745-1754) — the complaint merely recites that defendants failed and
If a manufacturer does everything necessary to make the machine function properly for the purpose for which it is designed, if the machine is without any latent defect, and if its functioning creates no danger or peril that is not known to the user, then the manufacturer has satisfied the law's demands. We have not yet reached the state where a manufacturer is under the duty of making a machine accident proof or foolproof. Just as the manufacturer is under no obligation, in order to guard against injury resulting from deterioration, to furnish a machine that will not wear out (see Auld v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 288 N.Y. 515, affg. 261 App. Div. 918), so he is under no duty to guard against injury from a patent peril or from a source manifestly dangerous. To illustrate, the manufacturer who makes, properly and free of defects, an axe or a buzz saw or an airplane with an exposed propeller, is not to be held liable if one using the axe or the buzz saw is cut by it, or if some one working around the airplane comes in contact with the propeller. In such cases, the manufacturer has the right to expect that such persons will do everything necessary to avoid such contact, for the very nature of the article gives notice and warning of the consequences to be expected, of the injuries to be suffered. In other words, the manufacturer is under no duty to render a machine or other article "more" safe — as long as the danger to be avoided is obvious and patent to all.
To impose upon a manufacturer the duty of producing an accident-proof product may be a desirable aim, but no such obligation has been — or, in our view, may be — imposed by judicial decision. Suffice it to note that, in cases dealing with a
There have been a number of cases in other states involving injuries from farming machinery and implements in which the courts have refused after trial to hold manufacturers negligent merely because the equipment was dangerous and no guards were furnished. (See, e.g., Stevens v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 151 Kan. 638; Foster v. Ford Motor Co., 139 Wn. 341; Yaun v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 253 Wis. 558; see, also, Davis v. Sanderman, 225 Iowa 1001.) In the Yaun case (supra, 253 Wis. 558), plaintiff, while working on a hay baler, fell in such a way that his arm was caught between the unguarded rollers of the machine and was crushed. He sued the manufacturer and prevailed in the trial court. He sought an affirmance upon the theory that a manufacturer of an article functionally dangerous is liable to a user who sustains injuries "`by reason of the manufacturer failing to exercise reasonable care in the adoption of a safe plan or design * * * whether the danger be open or hidden'" (emphasis supplied; p. 563). The Wisconsin Supreme Court, holding that such was not the law, reversed the judgment and dismissed the complaint. Pointing out that "The danger of the rollers was apparent in the present case", the court quoted from one of its earlier decisions (Dugenske v. Wyse, 194 Wis. 159, 165) as follows: "`It is true that a silo filler is a simple device. Any person of ordinary intelligence must be presumed to know that if his fingers got between the rollers and under the knives, serious consequences would result'" (p. 568). And, added the court, "If respondent's contention were sound, every meat grinder or other machine capable of mangling fingers would be an instrument the safe use of which would be guaranteed by the manufacturer" (p. 569).
It may well be argued that, since the development of mechanical contrivances has created so many new dangers, manufacturers should be compelled to equip complicated modern machinery with all possible protective guards or other
In conclusion, then, since the duty owed by a manufacturer to remote users does not require him to guard against hazards apparent to the casual observer or to protect against injuries resulting from the user's own patently careless and improvident conduct, the complaint was properly dismissed.
The judgment of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, with costs.