Troja v. Black & Decker Manufacturing Co.Court of Special Appeals of Maryland488 A.2d 516 (1985)Rule of LawIn Maryland, to overcome a directed verdict in a defective designsuit based upon strict products liability, a plaintiff must show that,at the time the defective product was made, it was technologicallyand practically feasible to manufacture an alternative productincorporating the non-defective features.
FactsRobert Krohn hired Michael Troja (plaintiff) to build a bar. Troja borrowedKrohn’s radial arm saw manufactured by Black & Decker ManufacturingCompany (Black & Decker) (defendant). Troja and Krohn removed the sawfrom its metal base and stand in order that it could be carried from thebasement to the work site. The saw’s guide fence and metal base were leftbehind. Without its base, Troja placed the saw directly on the floor andrigged a makeshift guide fence by securing an aluminum level to the sawwith clamps. Troja was attempting to make a cross-cut, guiding the woodwith his hand, when the saw slipped and amputated Troja’s finger. Theinstruction manual accompanying the saw properly explained how toexecute a cross-cut. Troja brought suit against Black & Decker for strictproducts liability. At trial, Troja presented an expert who would havetestified that an alternative to Black & Decker’s saw could have beenmanufactured so that the unit would not work if the guide fence was not inplace. The trial court refused to allow the expert’s testimony and ruled thatTroja had failed to produce any legally sufficient evidence of an alternativeradial arm saw design or the existence of the technology necessary toproduce such a product in 1976, the year that the saw was made. The trialjudge granted Black & Decker’s motion for a directed verdict on thedefective design portion of Troja’s strict liability count and Troja appealed.IssueIn Maryland, to overcome a directed verdict in a defective design suit basedupon strict products liability, must a plaintiff show that, at the time thedefective product was made, it was technologically and practically feasibleto manufacture an alternative product incorporating the non-defectivefeatures?Holding and Reasoning (Gilbert, C.J.)
Yes. In Phipps v. General Motors Corp., 363 A.2d 955 (Md. 1976), the courtexpressly adopted the rule proposed by the Restatement (Second) of Torts §402A regarding strict liability. That section requires a court, in a designdefect case, to weigh “the utility of risk inherent in the design against themagnitude of the risk.” Id.at 959. In some cases, the risk is “inherentlyunreasonable” and no balancing test is necessary, such as where a gaspedal of new car suddenly causes the car to accelerate. Troja argues thatthe Black & Decker radial arm saw was unreasonably dangerous becausethe saw was designed so that the guide fence was easily removable and yetcontinued to be operational. In Singleton v International Harvester Co., 685F.2d 112 (4th Cir. 1981), the Fourth Circuit held that in order for a plaintiffto survive a directed verdict in a design defect case, he must show that itwas technologically feasible, at the time the defective product was made, of