Product liability cases can involve many different theories of liability. Typically, the issues in the case are narrowed during the litigation process, with only some claims actually being tried. It is therefore crucially important for a trial court to properly instruct the jury on the issues presented at trial.
In the recent case of Lawing v. Univar, USA, Inc., the plaintiff worked as a maintenance mechanic at a plant that produced a precious metal catalyst used in the automobile industry and refined metals from recycled materials. The mechanic’s employer purchased sodium bromate, an oxidizer needed in the refining process, from the defendant manufacturer (who sourced the product from another defendant, who obtained it from a facility in China through its subsidiary, also a defendant in the case).
In June 2004, a fire broke out in the plant, injuring the plaintiff. He brought a product liability lawsuit against the defendants, claiming that their packaging and labeling of the sodium bromate contributed to the fire. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff’s strict liability claim, but the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision.