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NY Supreme Court Reinstates Product Liability Lawsuit

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The New York Superme Court onTuesday reinstated a Manhattan restaurant worker’s product liability lawsuitagainst the manufacturers of a lye-crystal drain cleaner.

According to court documents, YunTung Chow was burned and blinded in one eye in 2001 when he mixed three timesthe usual amount of lye crystals with water, poured that down a clogged floordrain, and was splashed in the eye. Chow, who could not read the cleaner’sdirections in English, filed a product liability lawsuit against themanufacturer, distributor, and package designer of Lewis Red Devil Lye. Thelawsuit alleges defective design and inadequate warning.

Chow’s claimwas dismissed by ajudge before trial and that decision was upheld by a midlevel court. Thecompanies claim the restaurant manager failed to follow label instructions andwarnings for using the 100 percent sodium hydroxide. The package directed usersto wear goggles and gloves, noting that misuse “may result in splash back andcause serious injury.”

New York’s highest court,however, ruled Thursday that state law requires companies facing defectivedesign claims to show that their product does not present an unreasonable riskof harm to the user.

“At this state, defendants cannotrely simply on the fact that their product is what they say it is and thateveryone knows that lye is dangerous,” Chief Judge Johnathan Lippman wrote. “Thequestion at the heart of the merits of the defective design claim is ‘knowinghow dangerous lye is, was it reasonable for the defendants to place it into thestream of commerce as a drain cleaning product for use by a layperson?’”

If you have been injured by a dangerousproduct, please contact the Madison Product Liability Lawyers of Habush Habush& Rottier, S.C. ®, by calling 800-242-2874.