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Was the Misuse of a Jack to Blame in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against BMW?

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The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals tried to answer that in Lindholm v. BMW of North America, (No. 16-3516.)

In this case, the family of Alex Lindholm (“Lindholm”) is suing for wrongful death after Lindholm was killed when his BMW fell on him and asphyxiated him. The day before the accident, while working on the car’s exhaust system, Lindholm and his father used the jack—manufactured by BMW, to raise it off the ground. Lindholm told his father that the jack was the proper one for the job. After using the jack to raise the car, Lindholm placed a jack stand under it to hold it in place while they worked. The next day, while Lindholm continued to work on the car, it fell on him. He asphyxiated and died.

The family sued BMW for strict liability based on defective design, negligence, negligent design, breach of implied warranties, and wrongful death. Under South Dakota law, the family would have to prove that the jack Lindholm used was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that it caused the injury sustained. BMW maintained that there were multiple warnings about how the jack should be used, and that Lindholm disregarded all of them.

After looking at the facts, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with BMW and the district court that a reasonable jury would have to conclude that Lindholm misused the jack. It also held that it was is unforeseeable that a user would ignore safety warnings, and the family does not argue that the warnings were somehow inadequate. Lindholm’s misuse of the jack was therefore legally unforeseeable. As for the family’s negligence and negligent-design claims, the Court said Lindholm’s misuse of the jack also constitutes contributory negligence, which bars the family from recovering.

Because it agrees that summary judgment was appropriate on all of the underlying claims that the family advanced, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the wrongful-death claim.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.

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