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Product Liability

WI Court of Supreme Court

Case Name: Matthew W. Murphy v. Columbus McKinnon Corporation

Case No.: 2020AP001124

Officials: Patience Drake Roggensack, J.

Focus: Product Liability

The court of appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment for defendant Columbus McKinnon Corp. (“CMC”). The Supreme Court interprets the common law that applied to a design defect for the first time, Wis. Stat. § 895.047 (2019-20) created in 2011.

In interpreting Wisconsin’s product liability statute when the claim is for a defective design, the court concludes as follows: (1) Wis. Stat. § 895.047(1)(a) requires proof of a more safe, reasonable alternative design the omission of which No. 2020AP1124 32 renders the product not reasonably safe; (2) proof that the consumer-contemplation standard as set out in § 895.047(1)(b) (for strict liability claims for a defective design) has been met; and (3) proof that the remaining three factors of a § 895.047(1) claim have been met. The statute’s plain language is clear in showing that the legislature codified the common law consumer-contemplation standard in § 895.047(1)(b). The Supreme Court disagrees with the court of appeals’ conclusion that the legislature discarded the consumer-contemplation test by incorporating the risk-utility balancing test. The Supreme Court also declines to adopt comment f, upon which the court of appeals relied. The Supreme Court affirms the court of appeals in reversing summary judgment and remand to the circuit court for further proceedings.


Decided 12/28/22

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