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Failure to Warn claim requires “reason to know” of danger.

Madison v. Bobst N. Am., Inc.
2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115878, *3 (E.D. Va. Aug. 31, 2015)

by Gregory Emrick, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at:
http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/virginia/vaedce/3:2015cv00351/321389/16/

Plaintiff, an operator of a folder-glue machine for Amcor, suffered injury when he was shocked after placing his hand on the companion air conditioning unit. He brought suit against Bobst North America, Inc. (“Bobst”) who had installed the unit, alleging that Bobst “negligently disassembled, packaged, delivered, installed, assembled, tested, inspected, placed in service and commissioned" the folder-gluer machine and attached air conditioning unit at Amcor for use by Amcor employees” and “failed to ground and wrongfully energized the casing of the air conditioning unit, and then did not properly and adequately test or inspect the air conditioning unit and attached folder-gluer machine.” The matter was brought in the Federal Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia based on diversity and Bobst moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6).

Judge Henry E. Hudson first noted that the matter had been brought in the federal court on diversity jurisdiction, which required that he apply the substantive rules of Virginia where the incident occurred, but the procedural rules of the Fourth Circuit. Applying the holdings of Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009), the Court noted that :

A complaint need not assert "detailed factual allegations, "but must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. The "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," to one that is "plausible on its face."

Madison, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115878, *4-5 (internal citations omitted). The Court noted that the Complaint, as drafted, only presented a standard negligence claim and failure to warn claim. The Court found that the Complaint adequately pled sufficient facts to support a claim for negligent install of the air conditioning unit. The Court dismissed the failure to warn claim, however, noting that under Virginia law:

To prevail on such a claim, Madison must establish that Defendants: (1) knew or had reason to know that the folder-gluer and air conditioning machinery were or were likely to be dangerous for their intended use, (2) had no reason to believe that those for whose use that machinery was supplied—here, Madison—would realize its dangerous condition, and (3) failed to exercise reasonable care to inform the user of its dangerous condition or of the facts which made it likely to be dangerous. That Defendants had knowledge or reason to know that the machinery was dangerous is a critical component of a failure to warn claim. As the Virginia Supreme Court has declared, "the appropriate standard in Virginia is whether [Defendants had] a reason to know, not whether [they] should know."

Id. at *6-7 (emphasis in original)(internal citations omitted).

The Court held that the Complaint did not present facts that Bobst had reason to know that the folder-glue machinery was dangerous. Therefore, the Court denied the motion to dismiss as to the negligence claim and dismissed the failure to warn.


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