Understanding the Misuse Defense in Colorado Product Liability Actions

Posted by Jeremy Rosenthal | Dec 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

A product liability action in Colorado refers to suits against a manufacturer of a product that are in response to personal injury, death, or property damage endured by a consumer. The harm can result from product defects in manufacturing, design, assembly (and others), or a failure to warn against the dangers of usage or misusage of the product. Action may not be brought if the harm occurred from usage of the product for an unintended purpose, or in an unintended manner. In the following case, the CO Supreme Court addressed a product liability action which involved the misuse defense, as well as challenged the adequacy of the product's written warning labeling.

Uptain v. Huntington Labs Inc. in Colo.

Plaintiff Tonya Uptain began working in housekeeping at the SW Memorial Hospital in Cortez, and was trained in usage of various products for cleaning. One product, Sani-Tate, manufactured by Huntington Labs, is a hydrochloric acid solution that is used. During her training, the supervisor advised handling the solution with gloves as a cautionary measure.

Ms. Uptain chose not to use gloves because the swabs that are used for application of the solution would drip, and she wished to “wring” them out with bare hands to remove extra liquid. The Sani-Tate product had warning labels indicating that users should avoid direct contact with the liquid because of the potential for chemical burns, and if contact occurs, to rinse the skin area. Over a short period, the plaintiff's hands became red and blistered, and she approached her supervisor, who reminded her to use the gloves when handling Sani-Tate. Thereafter the condition worsened and the plaintiff had some skin graft operations and suffered permanent scarring, which led her to file suit against Huntington.

Huntington claimed their warning labels were adequate, rather the plaintiff failed to read and heed the instructions; in doing so, the plaintiff misused the product and assumed risk. The court explained products are not considered defective if they are safe when used in a normal fashion, without improper handling or usage. For example, it would be improper to bring suit on a candy-maker for an illness that occurs when a child eats an obviously excessive amount of candy at a single time. The court sided for the defendant since no liability exists if Sani-Tate was used in a manner that was unintended, or that the means of usage, rather than a defect, caused the injuries. Further, the plaintiff failed to adhere to the product label warnings by wringing the swabs out bare-handed--not a reasonably foreseeable means of using the product.

Have you been injured as a result of a potentially dangerous product? Colorado law affords certain rights for those injured when using a product as intended, or when the product lacks adequate warnings concerning usage. At The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal, they will hold the party responsible by seeking financial compensation for your damages in court. For a complimentary consultation regarding your case, call the office without further delay.

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenthal

Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is dedicated to helping his clients seek just compensation for their injuries regardless of the lengths he has to go to or the distances he may have to travel in order to get it.


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