Lawing v. UnivarAnnotate this Case
At issue in this case was the packaging and labeling of sodium bromate, a chemical which contributed to a fire that occurred in a plant owned by Engelhard Corporation in June 2004. At the time of the fire, Scott Lawing worked at Engelhard's Seneca plant as a maintenance mechanic. Engelhard produced a precious metal catalyst used in the automobile industry, and refined metals from recycled materials. In this products liability action, Trinity Manufacturing, Inc. and Matrix Outsourcing, LLC argued that the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment to them on a strict liability cause of action. In their cross-appeal, Scott and Tammy Lawing asked the Supreme Court to reverse the court of appeals' decision affirming the trial court's decision to charge the jury on the "sophisticated user" defense. After review, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals. The Court found the appellate court erred in setting forth its broad definition of "user," and affirmed as modified the court of appeals' decision on this issue. Furthermore, the Court concluded the appellate court erred in affirming the trial court's decision to charge the sophisticated user defense to the jury. The appellate court did not err, however, in reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Trinity and Matrix on the Lawings' strict liability claim. The Supreme Court found that the evidence in this case did not support the sophisticated user defense, so the trial court erred in charging the defense to the jury. The case was remanded for a new trial on the Lawings' negligence and implied warranty of merchantability claims.