Hoover v. New Holland N. Am., Inc.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Bowers sustained severe injuries when she was dragged into the rotating driveline of a tractor-driven post hole digger that was operated by her stepfather, who had borrowed the digger from Peter Smith. Smith had previously removed a plastic safety shield from the machine after years of use had left the shield damaged beyond repair. Plaintiff sued the digger’s seller, distributor, manufacturer, component maker, and others, asserting claims sounding in negligence and strict products liability. Defendants argued that they were entitled to summary judgment based on the substantial modification defense articulated in Robinson v. Reed-Prentice Division of Package Machinery Company because Smith made post-sale modifications to the digger that rendered the digger defective and proximately caused Plaintiff’s injuries. Supreme Court denied summary judgment with regard to the design defect claims. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Plaintiff raised triable issues of fact regarding the defective design of the safety shield that were sufficient to defeat summary judgment based on substantial modification. View "Hoover v. New Holland N. Am., Inc." on Justia Law