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Modification of Product Did Not Create Unreasonable Danger to User
Description A user that was injured by a product that had been modified from its original design sued the company that modified the product. Appeals court threw out jury verdict in consumer's favor, holding that any possible danger from the modification was obvious to the user.
Topic Torts
Key Words Product Liability; Product Modification
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Sandage suffered a severe back injury when he squeezed out of a car he had loaded on an automobile transport trailer for new cars. The alleged cause of the injury was that the transport trailer had been modified by adding several feet to its length and support poles, one of which made it hard to open the door of a car loaded on the trailer, leaving little room to get out of the car. The jury awarded Sandage over $1.5 million in damages; the company that modified the trailer appealed.
Decision Reversed. The modification of the product did not create an unreasonable risk of danger to the user of the trailer, and thus did not give rise to strict liability. Any danger created as a result of support post interference with opening car doors was obvious and was within the expectations of a consumer with knowledge of the product's characteristics. The law does not demand that only the very safest designs be used on a product; the focus is on defects that are unreasonably dangerous. There was also no negligence because the modifications to the product were obvious and patently clear to the user.
Citation Sandage v. Bankhead Enterprises, Inc., 177 F.3d 670 (8th Cir., 1999)

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