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Rose v. Highway Equipment Company

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

August 27, 2014

Robert Rose & another [1]
v.
Highway Equipment Company ; Jay Splaine, [2] third-party defendant

Argued May 9, 2014

Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on July 13, 2009.

The case was tried before D. Lloyd Macdonald, J.

Judgment affirmed.

Deborah M. Santello for the plaintiffs.

Christopher J. Sullivan ( Jonathan Klein with him) for Highway Equipment Company.

J. Michael Conley & Thomas R. Murphy, for Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

Present: Green, Meade, & Sullivan, JJ.

OPINION

Page 205

[15 N.E.3d 243] Meade, J.

Plaintiff Robert Rose sued Highway Equipment Company (HECO), the manufacturer of a broadcast spreader, after Rose severely injured his hand while oiling the spreader's chain.[3] Rose's suit asserted causes of action for negligence and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. On the negligence count, the jury found Rose seventy-three percent negligent and HECO twenty-seven percent negligent, which foreclosed recovery. See G. L. c. 231, § 85. On the breach of warranty claim, the jury answered " yes" to the special question whether Rose's use of the spreader was unreasonable, barring Rose from recovery on that claim. See Correia v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 388 Mass. 342, 355, 446 N.E.2d 1033 (1983) ( Correia ). On appeal, Rose claims that certain jury instructions created reversible error. We affirm.[4]

The jury heard various accounts of how Rose's hand became caught in the spreader. It was uncontested that the spreader needed to be running in order for its chain to be effectively oiled. Rose explained that, before the accident, he was kneeling or crouching between the cab of the truck and the spreader, using something akin to a Windex bottle to spray oil on the chain. Rose testified that he suddenly felt a tug at the sleeve of his sweatshirt and was unable to extricate himself from the grip of the spreader before his right hand and forearm were pulled into the mechanism.[5] [15 N.E.3d 244] After the accident, Rose told his boss, who is also his father-in-law, that he was injured when reaching backwards for the bottle of oil. In contrast, it was HECO's theory that Rose, after drinking beer earlier that afternoon, lost his balance while on a ladder on the operator's side of the truck and fell into the spreader.

Unlike an action in negligence, a breach of warranty claim primarily concerns the nature of the product, not the actions of the user. Colter v. Barber-Greene Co., 403 Mass. 50, 61-62, 525 N.E.2d 1305 (1988). See Correia, supra . While a factfinder in a warranty claim must ...


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