Justice MULLARKEY delivered the Opinion of the Court.
This case arises from an accident in which Lynn Armentrout was crushed between a stationary truck base and the rotating superstructure of a crane manufactured by FMC Corporation (FMC). Armentrout incurred severe injuries as a result of the accident and, with his wife, Tina Armentrout, filed an action against FMC seeking damages on theories of strict liability for failure to warn, strict liability for defective design, negligence in warning, and negligence in design. The jury returned a verdict in favor of FMC, and the trial court entered judgment accordingly.
The court of appeals reversed the judgment and remanded for retrial on two separate grounds not discussed in this opinion. Armentrout v. FMC Corporation, 819 P.2d 522 (Colo.App.1991). In addition, the court of appeals addressed four other issues which will occur on retrial. We denied FMC's petition for certiorari and left standing the court of appeals' judgment ordering a new trial. We granted certiorari to consider the four issues challenged by the Armentrouts in their cross-petition. We reverse in part, affirm in part and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Armentrout was injured when he was struck by the rotating upper of a crane manufactured by FMC. The accident occurred while he was working as a crane oiler for Derr-Gruenewald Construction Company, which owned and operated the crane. Armentrout's job was to monitor and maintain the fluid levels of the crane and to keep the surfaces of the crane clean. When Armentrout was struck by the rotating upper, he was cleaning the deck of the crane's stationary base. The facts indicate that he was standing either in the area known as the "forward luggage carrier"
Thereafter, Lynn Armentrout and his wife Tina Armentrout filed an action against FMC asserting claims of strict liability for failure to warn, strict liability for design defect, negligent failure to warn and negligent design defect. The Armentrouts requested relief under the theory that the existence of the crane's "pinch point" was a hazard which FMC should have
There was no bell or other audible warning to give notice that the superstructure was moving.
Although the cleaning and maintenance of the crane may be done while the superstructure was not in motion,
FMC's defense was based on the argument that Armentrout's injuries were caused by his own misuse and the negligence of the crane operator, rather than by a defect in the crane. FMC presented evidence showing that the accident was a result of the continuing unsafe work habits of the crane operator and Armentrout. The jury returned a verdict in favor of FMC.
The Armentrouts appealed to the court of appeals. The court of appeals reversed the judgment and remanded the case for retrial. FMC filed a petition for writ of certiorari with this court and the Armentrouts cross-petitioned for writ of certiorari. We granted certiorari to consider the issues presented in the Armentrouts' cross-petition.
The first issue involves the Armentrouts' claim of strict liability for failure to warn. We granted certiorari to consider whether the open and obvious nature of a risk is a defense to a strict liability failure-to-warn claim. Although the obviousness of the risk is not necessarily a complete defense to such a claim, we affirm the court of appeals' ruling on the facts.
The Armentrouts argued that FMC's crane was defective for lack of adequate warning because there was no warning decal on the machine to remind the user of the possibility of injury if the superstructure were in motion.
There was also evidence that FMC gave warnings of the crane's pinch points in the
The trial court instructed the jury to consider this evidence in the following context:
Jury Instruction No. 27.
The court of appeals rejected the Armentrouts' argument on alternate grounds. First, it distinguished Camacho v. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., 741 P.2d 1240 (Colo.1987), and held that Camacho did not require that the pattern jury instruction be modified as the Armentrouts requested. Armentrout, 819 P.2d at 525. Second, it found that the second paragraph of the instruction was consistent with the Armentrouts' theory of the case:
Id. We will consider the court of appeals' holdings in reverse order.
Initially, we agree with the court of appeals that the instruction given was consistent with the Armentrouts' theory at trial and, for that reason, the second paragraph of the pattern instruction was properly included in Instruction No. 27. Whether the danger was "open and obvious" was hotly disputed at trial. The Armentrouts claimed that Lynn Armentrout was standing in or near the forward luggage carrier when he was crushed and that the danger of being trapped in the forward luggage carrier was not apparent. The court of appeals' conclusion that Instruction No. 27 was consistent with the Armentrouts' trial presentation is buttressed by the Armentrouts' treatment of their negligence claim for failure to warn. The Armentrouts stipulated to Instruction No. 20 which required the jury to find that the danger was not obvious to the final user in order to hold FMC liable. Instruction No. 20 stated:
Based on the facts of this case, Instruction No. 27 was not improper. However, we do not agree that the court of appeals correctly interpreted Camacho.
In this regard, FMC argues that the court of appeals' decision in affirming the trial court's application of the open and obvious doctrine is properly based on the well-recognized distinction between failure-to-warn claims and design-defect claims in product liability cases and that the same reasons for rejecting the doctrine in design-defect cases do not apply in failure-to-warn cases. Specifically, FMC concedes that the obvious nature of the hazard is irrelevant in design-defect cases because if the product
FMC's argument is not persuasive. As the present case illustrates, failure-to-warn and design-defect claims often arise in the same context and are not sharply differentiated. The distinction which FMC suggests has not been followed in our cases. In Union Supply Co. v. Pust, 196 Colo. 162, 583 P.2d 276 (1978), and Camacho, we held that the open and obvious nature of the risk is not a complete bar to a strict liability failure-to-warn claim. See also Anderson v. M.W. Kellogg, Co., 766 P.2d 637 (Colo.1988). These holdings were premised on our conclusion, contrary to FMC's assertion, that a warning may make a product safer even if the danger is open and obvious. As we stated in Camacho, "[t]he purpose of a warning is to ensure that an otherwise dangerous product is used in a reasonably safe manner." Camacho, 741 P.2d at 1248.
The Notes on Use following CJI-Civ.2d 14:20 (1989), from which Instruction No. 27 was taken, contain the following direction:
The example contained in the comment is based on the facts of Camacho where the plaintiff claimed that Honda's failure to warn him that optional crash bars were available rendered a motorcycle in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous. Camacho, 741 P.2d at 1248. We stated that "a duty to warn may exist where the danger is patent if such warning might reduce the risk of harm attendant upon use of the product." Id. at n. 9. We directed the trial court to consider on remand "the efficacy of providing a warning." Id. at 1248.
The remand order in Camacho refers to the trial court's well-established obligation to determine, as a matter of law, whether the defendant had a duty to warn the plaintiff. Taco Bell v. Lannon, 744 P.2d 43, 46 (Colo.1987); University of Denver v. Whitlock, 744 P.2d 54, 57 (Colo.1987); Smith v. City & County of Denver, 726 P.2d 1125, 1127 (Colo.1986); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 328B (1965).
The open and obvious nature of a risk is not necessarily a complete defense to a strict liability failure-to-warn claim. Rather, the obviousness of the danger and the efficacy of the proposed warning are factors which the trial court should consider in determining whether the defendant had a duty to warn an ordinary user in the plaintiff's position. If the danger is open and obvious, there is no duty to warn unless there is a substantial likelihood that the proposed warning would have prevented injury to the ordinary user. If the trial court finds the existence of a duty to warn under such circumstances, then a Camacho-based modification of the pattern instruction is appropriate.
On the facts developed at the first trial, it is apparent that the warning decal does not meet the Camacho efficacy test. At most, the Armentrouts produced some evidence that the warning decal might have reminded some oilers of the dangers posed by the moving crane. There is no evidence that it would have prevented an injury such as that suffered by Lynn Armentrout. The trial court properly refused to modify Instruction No. 27 and we affirm the court of appeals.
The second issue involves the court of appeals' allocation of the burden of proof with respect to the plaintiffs' design-defect
In the present case, the jury was instructed that:
Instruction No. 24.
The instruction given by the trial court incorporates the rule that whether a product is "unreasonably dangerous" is to be determined under a risk-benefit analysis. In Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. v. Heath, 722 P.2d 410 (Colo.1986), we adopted the risk-benefit test set forth in the California case of Barker v. Lull Eng'g Co., Inc., 20 Cal.3d 413, 143 Cal.Rptr. 225, 573 P.2d 443 (1978). We stated:
Ortho, 722 P.2d at 413 (quoting Barker, 143 Cal.Rptr. at 234, 573 P.2d at 452).
The Armentrouts rely on Ortho in making their argument. As discussed above, under Ortho, the burden of proof that the benefits outweigh the risks lies with the defendant, once the plaintiff has established causation and injury. Ortho, 722 P.2d at 413. This is the same allocation of the burden of proof as set forth in Barker, and followed in California.
Although both states employ a risk-benefit test in determining whether a design is defective for purposes of liability, see Barker, 573 P.2d at 454, and Camacho v. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., 741 P.2d 1240, 1246-47 (in both cases, the respective courts held exclusive reliance upon the consumer expectations test is inappropriate for determining liability for defective design), the California Supreme Court specifically has held that the plaintiff in a design-defect case is not required to prove all the elements of liability. See Barker, 573 P.2d at 455 (concluding that once a plaintiff makes a prima facie showing that the injury was proximately caused by the product's design, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that the benefits outweigh the risks, i.e., "that the product is not defective").
In contrast, this court has chosen to follow the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A in requiring a plaintiff to prove that a product is in a "defective condition unreasonably dangerous." Union Supply, 196 Colo. at 171, 583 P.2d at 282 n. 5. Because the determination of whether a product is "unreasonably dangerous" is made through a risk-benefit analysis, we find that the plaintiffs also bear the burden of proving that the risks outweigh the benefits of the design.
To the extent that Ortho holds that the burden of proving that "the product's benefits outweigh its inherent risks" rests with the manufacturer, we overrule the case. See Ortho, 722 P.2d at 413. We merely intended, in that case, to adopt the risk-benefit analysis set out in Barker for determining the defectiveness of a design. In light of our previous decision rejecting California's attempt to relieve the plaintiff of proving more than the existence of a "defect" in a product, we conclude that the burden of proof allocation set out in Barker is inapplicable in Colorado.
In order to determine whether the risks outweigh the benefits of the product design, the jury must consider different
Ortho, 722 P.2d at 414 (relying on John W. Wade, On the Nature of Strict Tort Liability for Products, 44 Miss.L.J. 825, 837-38 (1973)). Without addressing Ortho's allocation of the burden of proof to the defendant to prove that the design's benefits prevail, we held in Camacho that it is reasonable to require a plaintiff to establish unreasonable dangerousness and we employed the factors set out in Ortho for performing the risk-benefit analysis. Camacho, 741 P.2d at 1245, 1247. Neither Ortho nor Camacho suggest that these factors are to be strictly applied in every case. This list is not exclusive, but merely illustrative of factors which may assist in determining whether or not a design is unreasonably dangerous. Depending on the circumstances of each case, flexibility is necessary to decide which factors are to be applied, and the list of factors mentioned in Ortho and Camacho may be expanded or contracted as needed.
We note here that there may be some confusion as to the elements of a prima facie case for the plaintiff in other jurisdictions. Several jurisdictions apparently focus on the requirement that the
We conclude that the court of appeals properly placed the burden on the plaintiffs of proving that the risks outweigh the benefits of a design. The trial court's instructions on design defect were sufficient, and we affirm the court of appeals' decision as to this issue.
Next, we consider whether the trial court erred in failing to specifically instruct the jury as to the meaning of "defective" for purposes of considering the Armentrouts' claim of defective design. The relevant portion of the instruction setting forth the elements of strict liability for defective product stated:
Instruction No. 23.
The Armentrouts argue that under the directions given to the jury, the jury was required first to determine that the crane was "defective" before it could conclude that the crane was unreasonably dangerous. They argue that the jury could not arrive at a finding of "unreasonable dangerousness" in this case, as it should have, because the jury was inadequately instructed as to the meaning of "defective." Without a specific definition of "defective," the Armentrouts argue that the jury presumably interpreted the word to mean "broken," its common meaning. Plaintiffs' Instruction BBB, offered by the Armentrouts, states:
In addition, the Armentrouts argue that under the law, "defective" is equivalent to the term "unreasonably dangerous" and that the jury should have been so instructed.
The court of appeals determined that, although it is necessary for the jury to understand the specific concept of "defective" as it applies in the context of a product liability action and the jury was not specifically instructed as to the meaning of "defective," its meaning was "amply clear" because the terms "defect" and "defective" were used often during the three-week trial. Therefore, the court of appeals concluded that the absence of a separate definition of the term "defective" in this case would not have required a retrial, but that because a retrial has been determined necessary on other issues, the jury should receive a specific instruction at retrial on the definition of the term "defective."
The form of the instructions given at trial is within the discretion of the trial court. Diversified Management, Inc. v. Denver Post, Inc., 653 P.2d 1103, 1110 (Colo.1982); Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Kerns, 172 Colo. 59, 63, 470 P.2d 34, 37 (1970). "All of the court's instructions to the jury are to be read and considered as a whole in determining whether all the necessary law has been correctly stated to the jury." Montgomery Ward & Co., 172 Colo. at 63, 470 P.2d at 36-37. A judgment will not be reversed for refusal of the trial court to give requested instructions where there was not resulting substantial, prejudicial error. Clark v. Giacomini, 85 Colo. 530, 531, 277 P. 306, 307 (1929); see also Stephens v. Koch, 192 Colo. 531, 533, 561 P.2d 333, 334 (1977) ("the power to review does not encompass the power to reverse a jury verdict based on a legally correct instruction, although the appellate court might prefer other language").
Confusion as to the meaning of "defective" apparently stems from the fact that the word is used in two different ways in a design-defect claim. The word "defective" often is used to express a legal conclusion upon which liability may be based. See John W. Wade, On Product "Design Defects" and their Actionability, 33 Vand. L.Rev. 551-52 (1980). When so used, "defective" is not a test for reaching the legal conclusion but is merely an abbreviation of the term "defective condition unreasonably dangerous" as used in Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A. In addition, however, "defective" also is used in design-defect cases to refer to an aspect of the product which, according to the plaintiffs, causes the product to be "unreasonably dangerous." "A `defect' does not mean a mere mechanical or functional defect but is anything that makes the product `unreasonably dangerous.'" Anderson v. M.W. Kellogg Co., 766 P.2d 637, 643 (Colo.1988) (emphasis added).
The jury in this case was not given any instruction on the meanings of "defect" or "defective," although those words were present in both of the instructions given on the claim for defective design. Under Instruction No. 23, the jury was required to determine 1) that the crane was "defective," and 2) that the "defect" caused the crane to be "unreasonably dangerous." The word "defective," or "defect," as used in Instruction No. 23 refers to the word's second definition, which we articulated above, i.e., an aspect of the crane's design. Therefore, we will focus on whether the jury was adequately informed as to the meaning of "defective," as used in this context.
Because the crane was manufactured and performed exactly as intended, it cannot be considered to be irregular or lacking in something essential to completeness. Application of the common meaning of the word by the jury would have resulted in a finding of non-defectiveness and, thus, a failure to perform the risk-benefit analysis. However, under the Anderson definition of "defect," the jury in this case should have determined if any aspect of the design caused the product to be "unreasonably dangerous," i.e., caused the risks of the design to outweigh the benefits. Therefore, we conclude that the instructions as a whole inadequately apprised the jury of the need to consider the risk-benefit test in its determination of whether the product was "defective."
We affirm that portion of the court of appeals' decision which holds that the jury should have been specifically instructed as to the definition of "defective." We reject that portion of the court of appeals' opinion which takes into consideration the use of the terms "defective" and "defect" throughout the trial. The test is whether the instructions, as a whole, correctly and adequately set forth the applicable law, not whether the jury could glean the term's meaning from its use during the course of the trial. Cf. Pueblo Bank and Trust Co. v. McMartin, 31 Colo.App. 546, 549, 506 P.2d 759, 761 (1972), appeal after remand 528 P.2d 953 (1974); Murrow v. Whiteley, 125 Colo. 392, 401, 244 P.2d 657, 662 (1952).
Although the law set forth in the instructions was correct, the jury was not adequately informed of the correct standard with which to determine the existence of "defectiveness," which resulted in substantial and prejudicial error. See Lee v. Great Empire Broadcasting, Inc., 794 P.2d 1032 (Colo.App.1989) (trial court's rejection of instruction requiring jury to determine nature of employment relationship constituted prejudicial error as it left jury without any standards against which to judge employer's defense). Therefore, on remand the trial court should instruct the jury that a "defect" refers to any aspect, not necessarily a flaw, in the product's design which causes the product to be unreasonably dangerous.
Finally, we consider whether the trial court erred in giving the jury the following instruction on the defense of misuse:
The court of appeals cited Schmutz, 800 P.2d 1307, concluding that "[b]ecause the record contains evidence that such misuse
The Armentrouts argue that Instruction No. 29 was improperly given in light of Schmutz. They argue that our decision in Schmutz bars a misuse instruction in this case because, as in Schmutz, FMC was aware that oilers worked within the swing radius of the superstructure while the crane was in operation and that numerous similar incidents had occurred prior to Armentrout's accident.
This court has recognized that, regardless of the defective condition of a product, misuse by an injured party which cannot be reasonably anticipated by the manufacturer is a defense where that conduct actually caused the injury. Schmutz, 800 P.2d at 1316; Uptain v. Huntington Lab, Inc., 723 P.2d 1322, 1324-25 (Colo. 1986) (noting that the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A cmt. h provides for the recognition of such a defense); Jackson v. Harsco Corp., 673 P.2d 363, 367 (Colo.1983). "A defendant who could reasonably foresee the possibility of misuse is not entitled to an instruction on the misuse defense." Schmutz, 800 P.2d at 1316 (citing Farrell v. Klein Tools, Inc., 866 F.2d 1294, 1297 (10th Cir.1989)). Before an instruction on the misuse defense can be given, there must be sufficient competent evidence that a defendant could not foresee the possibility of misuse. Schmutz, 800 P.2d at 1316; Farrell, 866 F.2d at 1297; see also Converse v. Zinke, 635 P.2d 882, 889 (Colo.1981).
In Schmutz, we concluded that "there was no competent evidence that the hospital's failure to clean the drill properly was unforeseeable.... Because a single instance of improper cleaning could cause the drill to malfunction and numerous instances of improper cleaning in various hospitals were known to [the defendant], the uncontroverted evidence was that the product misuse was foreseeable. There was no evidence to support the product misuse instruction." Id., 800 P.2d at 1316-17. We considered evidence of prior incident reports, involving the same type of misuse involved in the accident in question, as support for the conclusion that the misuse was foreseeable.
FMC argues that Schmutz can be interpreted to mean that any time a manufacturer is aware of the misuse of its product, it is not entitled to a misuse instruction, and that such an interpretation is inconsistent with our decision in Uptain. We held, in Uptain, that the plaintiff's failure to read and heed the warnings printed on the product's label and her act of using her bare hands to wring out a swab soaked in a caustic cleaning solution called Sani-Tate were unforeseeable uses of Sani-Tate. In so holding, we quoted the following language from the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A cmt. j:
Our holding in Schmutz is consistent with the law set forth in Uptain. We merely found in Schmutz that there was no competent evidence to support a conclusion that the misuse was unforeseeable. A defendant's actual awareness of a particular type of misuse involved with its product, including knowledge acquired from prior incident reports, may be considered in determining that the misuse was reasonably foreseeable. If there is also substantial evidence demonstrating that the misuse was not foreseeable, or the existence of adequate warnings as in the case of Uptain, then an instruction on misuse would be proper. Schmutz involved no such warnings or evidence. Thus, the defendant was not entitled to the instruction.
FMC attempts to distinguish Schmutz, arguing that its provision of a warning in the manual entitles it to the presumption of unforeseeability articulated in Uptain. There is evidence showing that Armentrout did not receive the warnings in the manual. Such evidence places in question the adequacy of warnings provided to the users of the crane. In Uptain, adequate warning reached the users of the product through a label affixed to the container. Therefore,
On the contrary, the evidence in this case, similar to that in the Schmutz case, supports a conclusion that it was reasonably foreseeable that the oilers would be present in the radius of the rotating upper of the crane when it was moving. The record indicates that the crane's upper/lower design made it more efficient to clean and oil the machine while the crane was operating. Testimony established that FMC was aware that oilers worked within the swing radius of the rotating upper when the crane was in operation. In addition, the evidence shows that FMC possessed numerous incident reports involving "pinch point" accidents. There is no competent evidence which would support a conclusion that the product misuse was unforeseeable. Accordingly, we hold that the court of appeals erroneously affirmed the trial court's submission of the misuse instruction to the jury.
In summary, we reach the following conclusions. First, the open and obvious nature of risk does not necessarily bar a strict liability claim for failure to warn. On the facts, the trial court properly declined to modify the pattern instruction at issue. Second, the plaintiffs, in asserting a design-defect claim, must show injury, causation, and the unreasonable dangerousness of the product according to the risk-benefit analysis. Third, the trial court inadequately informed the jury of the correct standard with which to determine the existence of "defectiveness" by failing to specifically instruct the jury as to the meaning of "defective," thereby resulting in substantial, prejudicial error due to the misleading guidance in this case provided by the common meaning of "defective." Finally, there is no substantial, competent evidence indicating that the misuse of the crane here was not reasonably foreseeable. Therefore, the court of appeals incorrectly affirmed the trial court's submission to the jury of an instruction on the defense of misuse. In accordance with the above conclusions, we reverse in part and affirm in part the court of appeals' decision. We remand the case with directions to return it to the district court for a new trial consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.
ERICKSON, J., concurs in part and dissents in part, ROVIRA, C.J., joins in the concurrence and dissent, and VOLLACK, J., joins in Part II of the concurrence and dissent.
VOLLACK, J., specially concurs in part and dissents in part.
Justice ERICKSON concurring in part and dissenting in part:
The court of appeals reversed a judgment entered on a defense verdict and ordered a new trial. Armentrout v. FMC Corp., 819 P.2d 522 (Colo.App.1991). We granted certiorari to review four issues.
While I concur with the majority's holding that the trial court properly instructed the jury on the open and obvious doctrine in this case, I disagree with the majority's attempt to extend its holding to create a
The petitioner, Lynn Armentrout (plaintiff), brought a personal injury action against the respondent, FMC Corporation (defendant), for injuries he suffered in a work-related accident. Armentrout's wife also asserted a claim for loss of consortium. The defendant is a manufacturer of heavy construction equipment, and built and sold the mobile crane model HC-238A that is the subject of this lawsuit. The model HC-238A mobile crane is forty-eight feet long and consists of two primary components; the crane superstructure which is capable of lifting and moving, equipment and concrete weighing in excess of 120 tons; and the truck base and platform on which the superstructure is attached. See Appendix A (photographs of the mobile crane model HC-238A and the site of the pinch-point injury). The superstructure rotates 180 degrees on an axis, thereby creating several "pinch points."
Armentrout and the crane's operator, Jeffery Wassam, had worked together as a two-man team running various cranes for more than two years. On the date of the accident, the two men were employed by Derr-Gruenewald Construction Company who had purchased the HC-238A mobile crane from FMC. When the mobile crane was delivered, FMC provided instruction manuals that warned of working on the platform on the truck while the crane was in operation, and of the dangers at the pinch points.
The two men, who had been operating the HC-238A mobile crane as a team for five months, were using the crane at a job site for the third consecutive day to move and install 70,000 pound concrete panels. While Wassam was operating the crane, Armentrout was cleaning oil and dirt off of the platform on the truck. At some point, while Wassam was rotating the crane superstructure to pick up another concrete panel, Armentrout either slipped or stepped into the forward luggage carrier, and was crushed at the pinch point when the crane superstructure passed over the luggage carrier on the truck.
The record contains evidence that not only were the oilers instructed not to work on the platform of the truck when the crane was in motion, but also that the crane operators were instructed not to rotate the superstructure of the crane when anyone was on the truck's platform. However, it was the common practice among many oilers to confront the known danger of working within the swing radius of the crane superstructure while it was in operation to simplify the cleaning of the mobile crane. Both Armentrout and Wassam were aware of the dangers of working on the truck's platform, and Armentrout knew the crane was operating at the time he was on the platform.
Following a jury verdict in favor of FMC on all claims, Armentrout appealed to the
Certiorari was not granted to review the order granting a new trial or the reasons stated in the court of appeals decision for ordering a new trial.
In section II of the majority opinion, the majority rejects, as the rule in Colorado, the open and obvious doctrine. The majority says that the "open and obvious nature of a risk is not necessarily a complete defense to a strict liability failure-to-warn claim." Maj. at 181.
A danger is either open and obvious, so that a manufacturer is under no legal duty to provide additional warnings even though some warning may have, in some way, reduced the risk, or the danger is not open and obvious. A manufacturer should still be able to rely on the certainty established by the doctrine to bar a plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim in obvious-danger cases. See Kysor Industrial Corp. v. Frazier, 642 P.2d 908, 911 (Colo.1982) ("Strict liability is not the equivalent of absolute liability. Because the law does not require a manufacturer to be the virtual insurer of its products, the scope of liability under section 402A is limited.")
Warning of a product's dangers serves two distinct purposes. First, a warning may reduce the risk of injury by allowing consumers to be more careful than they would if they were unaware of the risk or danger. Second, product warnings provide information necessary to allow consumers to decide whether or not they wish to confront certain risks regardless of a product's dangerous characteristics.
No legal duty should be imposed on a product manufacturer to provide a warning to a user where the warning conveys only that information which a user would glean from the observation of, or use of, the product. See Bavuso v. Caterpillar Indus., Inc., 408 Mass. 694, 563 N.E.2d 198, 202 (1990) (holding that there is no duty to warn of danger where danger was such that no one who thought about it, certainly no experienced equipment operator, could fail to appreciate it). A duty to warn arises only where, as between a manufacturer and a user, an imbalance exists with respect to their relative knowledge of a risk of harm associated with a product that would be eliminated with a proper warning. See National Bank of Bloomington v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 175 Ill.Dec. 817, 600 N.E.2d 1275 (1992) ("Generally, a duty to warn arises when there is unequal knowledge with respect to the risk of harm, and the manufacturer, possessed of such knowledge knows or should know that harm might occur absent a warning."). In this case, in addition to the dangers of the pinch-points being obvious to the ordinary user, Armentrout testified that he knew of the dangers of working on the crane while it was operating and knew of the risks which confronted him in violating the instructions that were provided to him in the operator manuals. There was simply no additional information about the dangers of the pinch points on the HC-238A mobile crane that would have equalized the balance of knowledge as between Armentrout and FMC.
A manufacturer, as a matter of law, not as a matter of fact, owes no duty to warn a reasonable person of an open and obvious danger. The majority, by requiring the trial judge to weigh various factors to determine whether a manufacturer is required to warn of open and obvious dangers, rejects the generally accepted majority rule that there is simply no legal duty to warn of these dangers. See, e.g., Hawkins v. Montgomery Industries Int'l, Inc., 536 So.2d 922 (Ala.1988); Scheller v. Wilson Certified Foods, Inc., 114 Ariz. 159, 559 P.2d 1074 (1976); Bojorquez v. House of Toys, Inc., 62 Cal.App.3d 930, 133 Cal.Rptr. 483 (1976); Babine v. Gilley's Bronco Shop, Inc., 488 So.2d 176 (Fla.App.1986); Weatherby v. Honda Motor Co., 195 Ga.App. 169, 393 S.E.2d 64 (1990); Miller v. Dvornik, 149 Ill.App.3d 883, 103 Ill.Dec. 139, 501 N.E.2d 160 (1986); Maguire v. Pabst Brewing Co., 387 N.W.2d 565 (Iowa 1986); Long v. Deere & Co., 238 Kan. 766, 715 P.2d 1023 (1986); Fiorentino v. A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., 11 Mass.App. 428, 416 N.E.2d 998 (1981); Mach v. General Motors Corp., 112 Mich.App. 158, 315 N.W.2d 561 (1982); Dulik v. K-Mart Discount Stores, Inc., 57 Ohio App.3d 61, 566 N.E.2d 710 (1989); Reece v. Lowe's of Boone, Inc., 754 S.W.2d 67 (Tenn.App.1988); Beans v. Entex, Inc., 744 S.W.2d 323 (Tex.App. 1988); Baughn v. Honda Motor Co., 107 Wn.2d 127, 727 P.2d 655 (1986); Parker v. Heasler Plumbing & Heating Co., 388 P.2d 516 (Wyo.1964). See also 3 American Law of Products Liability 3d § 33:25 (1987) (cataloging cases and noting that there "is generally no duty to warn where the danger is open and obvious or apparent, and the product is not defectively designed
I also view the majority's reliance on Union Supply Company v. Pust, 196 Colo. 162, 583 P.2d 276 (1978), Camacho v. Honda Motor Company, 741 P.2d 1240 (Colo.1987), and Anderson v. M.W. Kellogg, Company, 766 P.2d 637 (Colo.1988) as misplaced. Union Supply addressed defenses that were available to a defendant in both design-defect and failure-to-warn actions. Although Union Supply questioned the applicability of the "open and obvious defense" to both of these strict product liability claims for relief, it did not resolve the applicability of the doctrine in either design-defect or failure-to-warn cases.
While the language in each of the cited cases lends support to the majority's determination that the open and obvious danger of a product is not a complete bar to failure-to-warn claims, we have never affirmatively adopted the view stated by the majority in this case.
Camacho involved a situation in which Honda already produced a design option for its motorcycles which may have made the product safer. In ruling on the plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim, a divided court said that where a design option has been made available by the manufacturer that may reduce the risk of injury to purchasers of a product, manufacturers may be obligated to disclose the availability of that option to purchasers. Camacho, 741 P.2d at 1248. Requiring affirmative disclosure of the availability of design options is not the same as requiring a manufacturer to warn of obvious dangers.
In Camacho, we did not say that Honda was required to warn Camacho about the obvious dangers of riding a motorcycle even if such a warning would have reduced the risk to Camacho. Nor did we reject the open and obvious doctrine in failure-to-warn cases by requiring that a trial court decide the duty issue on a case by case basis. In my view, the holding of Camacho simply does not apply to the facts in this case. Like Camacho's decision to ride a motorcycle, Armentrout was well aware of the danger he exposed himself to when he worked on the crane's stationary platform while the crane's superstructure was rotating. However, unlike Honda, FMC did not offer safety options, the disclosure of which would have lowered the risk to Armentrout. Because Camacho did not limit or modify the traditional no-duty rule, but rather provided for an exception to the rule which is not applicable under the facts of this case, we should not now read it as rejecting the traditional no-duty rule.
Armentrout claims that by failing to install a warning bell or light on the HC-238A mobile crane, FMC breached its duty to warn him that the superstructure was in motion. Armentrout's argument mischaracterizes his design-defect claim as a failure-to-warn claim. A warning device like that sought by Armentrout would not provide a warning of the danger of pinch points since that danger is obvious and was known to Armentrout. Rather, the warning device Armentrout seeks is a design alteration that could possibly make the crane less dangerous as a whole.
I concur in the result the majority reaches in section II. However, I disagree that we should reject the open and obvious doctrine by adopting the "Camacho efficacy test" in failure-to-warn cases. In my view, it always has been, and should still be, the rule in Colorado that manufacturers owe no legal duty to warn of open and obvious dangers. Additionally, I believe that it is error to characterize a design-defect claim as a failure-to-warn claim.
The majority concludes that FMC presented "no competent evidence which would support a conclusion that the product
Misuse is a defense to a product liability action under the doctrine of strict liability, but only if the misuse is unforeseeable by the manufacturer. Uptain v. Huntington Lab, Inc., 723 P.2d 1322, 1325 (Colo.1986). Where a warning is given, the seller may reasonably assume that it will be read and heeded. Id. at 1326. In Schmutz, we interpreted Uptain, and said that a defendant who could reasonably foresee the possibility of misuse is not entitled to the defense. Schmutz, 800 P.2d at 1316. The majority relies on this statement and finds no competent evidence in the record which would support the conclusion that the product misuse was unforeseeable. Maj. at 189. Therefore, the majority states that FMC is not entitled to the benefit of the defense and the jury instruction on misuse was error. The majority opinion expands Schmutz to cover open and obvious danger cases so that the defense of misuse will no longer be available. In Schmutz, we held that the misuse defense was not properly submitted to the jury where the manufacturer of a cranial drill received over thirty reports of a latent malfunction due to improper cleaning and that failure to properly clean the drill might injure innocent non-users of the product. In my view, Schmutz does not address the open and obvious danger issue, and should not be interpreted as controlling on that issue.
The majority also rejects FMC's argument that Armentrout's conduct while working on the HC-238A mobile crane was unforeseeable. FMC argues that the warning provisions in the operators manual entitles them to the presumption of unforeseeability that we articulated in Uptain. In rejecting FMC's argument, the majority distinguishes Uptain from the present case by finding that, unlike Uptain where an adequate warning reached the user, in this case, there "is evidence that Armentrout did not receive the warnings in the manual and such evidence places in question the adequacy of the warnings provided the users of the crane." Maj. at 188. The majority reasons that there is no warning which Armentrout could have read or heeded and thus, the presumption set forth in Uptain does not apply. Id. I disagree.
Our decision in Uptain held that "the question of whether it was foreseeable that a user of [a caustic cleaning compound] would wring out a cloth with her bare hands was properly reserved for jury determination...." Uptain, 723 P.2d at 1326. In Uptain, we stated that where a user of a product receives a warning, he is presumed to heed that warning. Whether Armentrout actually received the warnings in the manual is not dispositive of the question of the adequacy of warnings for purposes of the Uptain presumption. It is undisputed that Armentrout knew the dangers of working on the truck's platform on the mobile crane while the crane was being operated. In this case, an adequate warning of the danger of injury by being crushed at the crane's pinch points was provided by Armentrout's employer, his past work on the crane and truck, his current work on the crane and truck, and by plain view of the crane in operation. In my view, Schmutz does not stand for the proposition that any manufacturer that is
At trial, FMC presented substantial evidence that Armentrout's work on the HC-238A mobile crane violated generally accepted operating procedures and was an unsafe practice. Accordingly, whether or not Armentrout's conduct of working on the HC-238A mobile crane was misuse, and if it was, whether that misuse was foreseeable to FMC are questions for the jury. See Uptain v. Huntington Lab, Inc., 723 P.2d 1322 (Colo.1986); Brown v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 136 Ariz. 556, 667 P.2d 750 (1983). I dissent from that portion of the majority opinion that holds the jury was improperly instructed on the misuse defense.
In conclusion, while I concur with the majority's holding that the trial court properly instructed the jury on the open and obvious doctrine in this case, I disagree with the majority's attempt to extend its holding to create a new "Camacho efficacy test" in future open and obvious danger cases. Rather, I believe that, in failure-to-warn cases, the open and obvious doctrine can bar plaintiffs' failure-to-warn claims, even though a warning of a particular obvious danger may make a product safer. I also agree with the majority that a plaintiff always bears the burden of proving that the actual design was unreasonably dangerous and that a jury should be instructed on the definition of "defective" for purposes of design-defect claims. However, I disagree that foreseeability of the harm in obvious danger cases prohibits a jury instruction on the defense of misuse, and with the majority's application of Schmutz v. Bolles, 800 P.2d 1307 (Colo.1990) to the facts in this obvious danger case.
I am authorized to say that Chief Justice ROVIRA joins in this concurrence and dissent, and Justice VOLLACK joins in part II of this concurrence and dissent.
I join in part II of Justice Erickson's concurrence and dissent that in failure-to-warn cases the open and obvious doctrine can bar plaintiffs' failure-to-warn claims even though a warning of a particular obvious danger may make a product safer. Accordingly, I find it unnecessary to reach the issues regarding the adequacy of instructions or the misuse defense because FMC owed no duty to Armentrout in this case.
I dissent from part III of the majority opinion which places on plaintiffs a burden of proving the unreasonable dangerousness of a product using risk-benefit analysis. Maj. at 181-83. Risk-benefit analysis should play no role in this case, which concerns the design of a mobile crane. As I stated in Camacho v. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., 741 P.2d 1240, 1249 (Colo.1987) (Vollack, J., dissenting),
Id. at 1251 (citing Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. v. Heath, 722 P.2d 410, 414 (Colo.1986). Like the motorcycle purchaser in Camacho, Armentrout had knowledge of the dangers of working on the crane's platform while the crane was in operation. Id. I thus conclude, as I did in Camacho, that the risk-benefit test is not the proper test to employ in this case. Id.
In addition, the Armentrouts submitted the following two instructions, placing the burden of proof upon the defendant, which were rejected by the trial court:
Wilson, 579 P.2d at 1287-88. The following test sheds some light on the meaning of "dangerously defective" in Oregon:
Phillips v. Kimwood Machine Co., 269 Or. 485, 525 P.2d 1033, 1036 (1974) (emphasis in original). Although Oregon's meaning of "dangerously defective" differs from the definition of "unreasonably dangerous" in this state, we find Oregon's approach persuasive. Accordingly, we conclude that the court of appeals properly distinguished Barker on the ground that a prima facie showing in Colorado is one of "unreasonable dangerousness."
Aaron D. Twerski, Seizing the Middle Ground Between Rules and Standards in Design Defect Litigation, 57 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 521, 527 (1982). The Texas Supreme Court, moreover, rejected the enumerated factors risk-utility test altogether because of the "difficulty of formulating a series of specific factors which fact finders will be instructed to balance." Turner v. General Motors Corp., 584 S.W.2d 844, 849 (Tex.1979).
Wilson, 579 P.2d at 1328 n. 5.
Plaintiffs' Instruction A, offered by the Armentrouts, differed from Instruction No. 24 only in that it added the word "specific" before "design."
Id. The treatise goes on to note that "the open and obvious doctrine may bar the plaintiff's claim, and not simply be a defense to that claim...." Id.
See also CJI-Civ.3d 14:20 (1989). This instruction recognizes that this court has never rejected the open and obvious doctrine. Rather, this instruction requires that a jury determine whether or not a specific risk of harm was obvious to an ordinary user. If a risk is obvious, a manufacturer is not required (has no duty) to provide a warning or instructions.
CJI-Civ.3d 14:22 (1989).