Mclaughlin v. Fellows Gear Shaper Company

786 F.2d 592 (1986)


P suffered the amputation of his left thumb when he was preparing a Gear Hobbing Machine for use. The machine was manufactured by Hermann Pfauter and sold to P's employer by D. P was engaged in jogging the machine in the course of carrying out the 'set-up' operations.  P was balancing in a half-crouch position on top of the machine, setting up the machine, and was using his left hand for balance and support. When he lowered the 'collar' of the machine to the workpiece, the machine cut off the thumb on his left hand. P claimed that the Pfauter gear hobber was defective and unsafe since it did not have an automatic interlock or two-handed control switch which could be used during the manually operated 'set-up' procedure. D argued that P had assumed the risk and that it could not foresee that someone would climb on the machine to do the setup. The court submitted interrogatories to the jury: 1. When the hobbing machine was delivered to LinkBelt (now P.T. Components), was it in a defective condition rendering it unsafe for its intended use?  2. If so, was the defective condition of the hobbing machine a proximate cause of the accident and plaintiff's injury? 3. Was it foreseeable to the manufacturer that operators would, on occasion, stand on the machine while carrying out the setting-up process? 4. Did plaintiff assume the risk? 5. Damages suffered if any? The jury said yes to 1,2, and 4. and no to 3 and awarded $120,000 in total damages. The supplemental questions were: 3(a) Was the fact that plaintiff stood on the machine a substantial factor in causing the accident? (b) Was it the sole cause of the accident? The answer came back no to both. On oral query the jury affirmed its findings for Ps. The court set aside the finding of assumption of the risk and entered judgment for Ps. D moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial and both were denied. D appealed.