ARTICLE: Liriano v. Hobart Corp.: Obvious Dangers, the Duty to Warn of Safer Alternatives, and the Heeding Presumption * Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1999 Brooklyn Law School
Brooklyn Law Review

ARTICLE: Liriano v. Hobart Corp.: Obvious Dangers, the Duty to Warn of Safer Alternatives, and the Heeding Presumption *

* (c) 1999 Hildy Bowbeer and David S. Killoran. All Rights Reserved.


65 Brooklyn L. Rev. 717


Hildy Bowbeer & David S. Killoran +



In Liriano v. Hobart Corp. ("Liriano III"), 1 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a worker who lost his hand after inserting it into an operating meat grinder could sue its manufacturer for failing to warn him against using the grinder without a protective guard. 2 The guard was present at the time the grinder was sold to the plaintiff's employer, but it had been removed before the accident. 3 Specifically, the Second Circuit ruled that even if the danger of placing one's hand in a meat grinder was open and obvious, the manufacturer could be held liable for failing to place a warning on the machine informing the user that a "safer alternative," i.e., a guard, was available. 4 The court then held that even if the plaintiff had no direct proof that the defendant's failure to warn caused his injury, the jury could infer from the absence of a warning label and the occurrence of the accident that a label, if present, would have prevented the accident 5 --a theory of causation that effectively shifts the burden to the defendant to prove that a warning would not have altered the outcome.

The Liriano III decision represents an unfortunate expansion of products liability law regarding the duty to warn and flies in the face of common sense and safety policy as well as judicial precedent. As the following discussion will demonstrate, neither product safety nor respect ...
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