New York Court of Appeals - 11 N.Y.2d 62
The defendant, an exclusive distributor of M-S-A Redi-Heat Blocks, was sued for failure to warn the public of the danger involved in using the blocks and to properly instruct users on their proper application. The blocks caused third-degree burns when they fell out from under the blankets used to wrap the child. The lower court did not find any warning given by the firemen to the nurse about the danger of applying the unwrapped blocks to the infant's body. The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the verdict and ordered a new trial unless the plaintiffs agreed to reduce the verdict. The plaintiffs agreed to reduce the verdict, and final judgment was entered. The defendant appealed, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove any actionable negligence and that the trial court's charge was erroneous. The court instructed the jury that if the heating block was inherently dangerous, the defendant distributor had a duty to provide reasonable warning of any latent dangers known to it. The warning on the container was inadequate and did not amount to a warning of the risk at all. The jury found that the distributor would be liable to unwarned ultimate users who reused the product long after the cardboard containers bearing the warning had been dispensed with. The trial court's charge was not erroneous.
The dissenting opinion argues that the plaintiff's recovery should not be reversed due to an intervening act of negligence by a volunteer fireman. The manufacturer had a duty to anticipate the risk and inscribe the warning on the heat block, as the jury found. The failure of the fireman to warn the nurse, even if negligent, does not affect this duty. An intervening act of a third person, even if done negligently, does not make it a superseding cause of harm if the actor should have realized that a third person might act in that way. The judgment should be affirmed. However, the rule that it is not necessary to anticipate the negligence or crime of another is not absolute.
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