Brief Fact Summary.
Norma Rose sued American Tobacco Company for negligent product design when she was diagnosed with lung cancer after smoking one pack of their cigarettes everyday for 40 years.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
To assert a claim for negligent design, the plaintiff must establish that it was practical to design a safer product that remained operative.
Norma Rose developed lung cancer after smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years from American Tobacco Company. Rose sued American Tobacco’s successor, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., claiming negligent product design. The trial court ruled in favor of Rose’s negligent design claim and the appeals court reversed. Frank Adamo, the executor of Norma’s estate, appealed the decision of the appellate division.
Whether the plaintiff must show that a safer, operative product was plausible in a negligent design case?
Yes. The plaintiff did not show that light cigarettes were as efficient to consumers as regular cigarettes. The decision of the appellate division is affirmed.
The plaintiff must present evidence that the product, as designed, was not reasonably safe because there was a substantial likelihood of harm and it was feasible to design the product in a safer manner.View Full Point of Law
In products liability cases claiming design defects, the plaintiff must prove that the product purchased was unsafe and that there was a safer way to design the product. In negligent design cases, the plaintiff is further required to prove that the safer design was still operative. Although Norma showed that the effects of light cigarettes are safer than the current design of cigarettes, Norma failed to show that the light cigarettes were still practical for the purposes of smoking. The purpose of cigarettes are to satisfy the consumer, and Norma was therefore required to prove that the consumers would be equally satisfied with the light cigarettes as they were with the standard cigarettes manufactured by American Tobacco Company; Norma’s failure to make this comparison cost her success in this case.