Jury To Decide If Machine Codesigner Is Liable For Worker's Injury

Linda Thompson operated a laminating machine that sticks printed circuit boards to flexible substrates for Sheldahl Inc.

Linda Thompson operated a laminating machine that sticks printed circuit boards to flexible substrates for Sheldahl Inc. On June 11, 2001, Thompson was feeding a copper roll into the laminator when adhesive dripped onto the laminate from the side dams of the "comma coater," a device that applies adhesive to the bottom of the laminate. As she reached through the coating enclosure room doors to clean up the drip, her hand became caught between the moving roller and the laminate, crushing her hand and lower arm.

Thompson filed a product-liability suit against Hirano Tecseed Co. Ltd., the manufacturer of the laminator. Hirano made the laminator according to design specifications provided by Sheldahl.

Hirano asked the federal trial court to rule for it before trial, arguing that it could not be held responsible because it did not design the laminator, but merely followed Sheldahl's specifications. Hirano said that Sheldahl rejected safety features it recommended that would have prevented Thompson's accident.

The court granted summary judgment for Hirano, ruling it was not liable for a design it did not produce. Thompson appealed, arguing that Hirano was the designer of the defective side dams and comma coater.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that a jury should-decide if Hirano was a designer of the comma coater and if the design was defective. The case is being retried.

Thompson v. Hirano Tecseed Co. Ltd., 456 F.3d 805 (8 th Cir. 2006), U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, Aug. 1, 2006.

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