• Failure To Warn Claims (But Not Design Defect Claims) Against Pressure Washer Manufacturer Can Proceed to Jury
  • May 26, 2014
  • Law Firm: Sutherland Asbill Brennan LLP - Washington Office
  • In litigation arising from an allegedly defective gasoline-powered pressure washer that caused a large fire in Kansas in 2010, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas granted summary judgment to the defendant manufacturer on the plaintiffs’ design defect and manufacturing defect claims, but allowed the failure to warn claims to proceed to the jury. The parties agreed that the pressure washer, which had been turned off and placed in a closet, was the source of the fire.

    The plaintiffs made three manufacturing/design defect claims, each of which was rejected by the court. First, that the product was unreasonably dangerous because during and after use, the product’s muffler guard became and remained hotter than an ordinary consumer would expect. Here, the court, explaining that the fact the product became hot enough to start a fire was not in itself evidence of a design defect, held that the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of a design defect. Second, that the product was unreasonably dangerous because it was missing a clamp on its fuel line. Here, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence that a missing fuel-line clamp would cause a fire. Third, that the product was unreasonably dangerous because it did not comply with the safety standards of the American National Standards Institute. Again, the court explained that the plaintiffs failed to show that failure to comply with these standards constituted an unreasonably dangerous condition. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all of the manufacturing/design defect claims.

    The court, however, allowed the plaintiffs’ failure to warn claims to proceed. Construing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the court decided that the product’s manual stated that the machine gets hot and should be kept away from flammable and combustible materials, but that it does not clearly communicate that the threat of fire exists after the machine is turned off.