Many products consumed by Massachusetts residents can be dangerous as well as useful. If a product contains inherent risks, manufacturers may be obligated to warn the consumer of these hazards. Manufacturers are liable for injuries caused by a failure to warn. This duty was discussed in a Massachusetts product liability decision. An executrix filed a wrongful death lawsuit after the decedent was found underneath a truck on his farm. His clothing was caught in a spinning U-joint that was a part of the truck, causing him to die by accidental asphyxiation. His widow filed suit against the manufacturer that produced the original core of the truck and the company that manufactured the equipment used to lift the dump body of the truck.
The deceased had originally bought the truck from an independent dealer as an “incomplete vehicle” in which there was a chassis, engine, and cab. It did not have the necessary components needed to perform the intended functions of a dump truck. The decedent transformed it into a functioning dump truck by installing the body and the mechanical system for tilting it. This was all completed decades before the accident, and no record was kept of who provided the work. The power take off (PTO) made by the second defendant connected to the transmission so that it could help power various kinds of equipment. This was achieved by the PTO spinning a post when it was engaged, which then powered the part attached to it.
The dump truck had several exposed parts like the auxiliary drive shaft and U-joint, which presented several dangers to anyone working below the truck when the PTO was running. Each respective manufacturer provided a warning of the risks that would be present in the future with a completed vehicle. The manufacturer of the truck provided a specific warning about the uses of PTOs and any related equipment. The relevant section of the manual contained a separate box marked “warning” with several exclamation points. General warnings were provided by the maker of the PTO, which advised avoiding going underneath the vehicle while the engine was running. It also admonished against working near the rotating drive shaft, due to the possibility of getting entangled.