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Payne v. ABB Flexible Automation

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Citation Edit

Payne v. ABB Flexible Automation, Inc., 116 F.3d 480 (Table), 1997 WL 311586 (8th Cir. 1997).

Factual Background Edit

Michael Payne was fatally injured while working at Superior Industries as a cell operator of an automated robot (used for the production of aluminum automobile wheels). Payne had instructed his co-workers to take a break. When a co-worker returned to the cell, Payne was pinned between the robot’s gripper arm and a wheel inside a drilling machine. The administratix of his estate sued the manufacturer of the robot, ABB Flexible Automation, alleging strict liability and negligence.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The District Court granted summary judgment to ABB, concluding that the plaintiff’s request for admission did not create a triable issue of fact as to whether the robot was negligently or defectively designed.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

The Eight Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, affirmed the grant of summary judgment to ABB. In support of the motion, ABB submitted an OSHA Report, citing decedent’s employer, Superior, for removing safety devices from the cell of the programmed robot, and for allowing employees to enter into the immediate operational area of the robot, exposing them to the danger of injury by being caught in the robot’s jaws.

Also, ABB submitted Superior’s Report, which indicated that inattention by Payne was the primary factor in the accident, and found that Payne had overlooked safety measures by entering the cell before “locking it out,” and by running the robot at 100% test speed while inside the cell, rather than at 25% speed as required by Superior’s safety guidelines.

Plaintiff failed to produce evidence which showed that ABB’s failure to manufacture the robot with a safety device constituted negligence, or that it rendered the robot defective or unreasonably dangerous. Merely asserting that a safety device would have prevented an accident did not satisfy Plaintiff’s burden of proving causation. Plaintiff also failed to negate other possible causes of the accident and offered no evidence to support her theory that the absence of a presence-sensing device was the cause of the accident.

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