Thompson v. Philips Electronics North America Corp.
For a product to qualify as "unreasonably dangerous" it must be dangerous to an extent beyond that contemplated by an ordinary consumer who purchases it, with ordinary knowledge about the product's characteristics. Allegedly, Richard Thompson, an apprentice electrician, attempted to install a light fixture that had a razor sharp sheet metal edge in 2006, and he was injured. Thompson filed a product liability suit against Genlyte Thomas Group and Philips Electronics North America Corp., alleging that the light fixture was defective and the defendants failed to provide a warning about the razor sharp sheet metal edge. The court found that Genlyte qualified as a "product seller" and that Philips Electronics, which acquired Genlyte Thomas Group in 2008, did not qualify as a "product seller." The court granted judgment to Philips Electronics. The court was not persuaded that the edge qualified as a "sharp edge" or as "razor sharp." There was evidence that Richard Thompson previously had installed hundreds of similar light fixtures and that he usually did not find it necessary to wear gloves, to protect his hands, when he handled the light fixtures. The light fixture met the safety standard requirements of the Underwriters Laboratory. There was evidence that Thompson, who was working on a step ladder, forcefully shoved the light fixture, in an effort to position it correctly on the ceiling, lost his balance, cut his hand and required surgery. Thompson's expert admitted that even if the sheet metal edge had not been sharp, Thompson probably would have cut his hand. Thompson failed to establish the light fixture was "unreasonably dangerous" to the ordinary consumer. "The only danger the plaintiff established," wrote the court, "is that striking the edge of a lighting fixture made of sheet metal with substantial force can cause injury." This constituted an open, obvious and known danger. Thompson failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he would not have been injured, if he had received an adequate warning. The court granted judgment to Genlyte.