District Court Affirms Duty To Train Employees Is Not the Responsibility of the Products Manufacturer
SteveK September 14th, 2009
In Kolokowski v. Crown Equipment, U.S. District Court in New Jersey recently confirmed that the duty to train employees rests with the employer, not the manufacturer.
The case involved a claim for injuries sustained by plaintiff while operating a walkie rider pallet truck. In a decision granting summary judgment to the defendant, the Court first addressed whether the plaintiff’s expert was qualified to render an opinion on whether the product was defectively designed. The Court conducted a Daubert hearing, and after extensive analysis, concluded that the expert’s opinion did not satisfy the trilogy of restrictions on the admissibility of an expert: whether the expert is qualified, whether the methods employed in developing the opinion are reliable, and whether the proffered expert testimony fits with the facts of the case. The plaintiff, therefore, was unable to sustain its burden of proof on its design defect claim.
The plaintiffs also asserted a failure to warn claim, asserting that the defendant manufacturer had an obligation to provide training. The Court rejected this argument finding substantial support to the contrary in New Jersey. The Court relied upon Grier v. Cochran Western Corp. 308 N.J. Super 308 (App. Div. 1998) in which the obligation was placed squarely on the employer. The Court also noted that OSHA specifically places the duty to train operators of powered industrial trucks on the employer. 29 CFR Sec. 1910.178. The Court also countered the contention that employers lack the incentive to train employees by stating that the goals of an employer for increased productivity affecting the bottom line is a significant incentive and, further, that employers are better situated to conduct such training since they can discipline employees for failure to attend training coupled with the employers having more credibility with their employees than a “remote product manufacturer.” This, along with the plaintiff’s admissions that training would not have helped him avoid the accident, left no room for the claim of plaintiffs to be sustained. The Court therefore, dismissed all claims of plaintiffs.
DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, PC ( www.dbnjlaw.com ) is a full service law firm in New Jersey which provides a broad range of legal services, including the representation of companies in defense of products liability claims. For additional information about the matters in this bulletin or in the firm’s Products Liability Practice, please contact Stephen O. Davis, Esq.