place, the accident would not have taken place.
To prevail on both claims, plaintiff would have to prove that defendant's defective or negligent product design caused plaintiff's injury. In this case, the manufacturer supplied a safety device to prevent exactly the type of injury that occurred in this unfortunate accident. If the product had been used as designed, and if the accompanying warnings had been heeded, the injury would not have occurred. Plaintiff's injury was not the result of a defective or negligently designed product, but was caused by the negligent maintenance of the plaintiff's employer, who allowed the machine to be operated without the safety latch in place.
Whether the employer's negligence is a superceding cause, absolving the manufacturer of liability, depends on the determination of whether it was foreseeable to the manufacturer that people would disregard the clear instructions on the machine and disengage the safety latch. See Payne v. Soft Sheen, 486 A.2d at 726 ("negligence by an intervening actor will not relieve the manufacturer of liability if the negligence could reasonably have been anticipated under both negligence and strict liability theories of recovery"). Plaintiff has introduced no evidence that the manufacturer should have foreseen that a purchaser of the product would disregard the clear warning on the machine and disengage the safety latch, nor has he introduced evidence that the manufacturer was aware that the paper cutter was being operated without a functional safety latch. In this case, as in Hanlon v. Cyril Bath Co., 541 F.2d 343 (3d Cir. 1975), the injured party's employer "removed a safeguard against accidental activation that had been incorporated in the original structural design and would have been adequate to prevent this accident." Id. at 346. To hold the manufacturer liable for such an act of the employer would be requiring the manufacturer to be an insurer of its products.
Since the injury would not have occurred had the product been used as designed, and the employer's negligence was not reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer, plaintiff's claims of negligent and defective product design must fail. Defendant's summary judgment motion on these counts will therefore be granted.
II. Assumption of the Risk
Even if we did not grant the summary judgment based on plaintiff's failure to prove causation, we would find that the plaintiff assumed the risk of operating this machine knowing of its dangerous qualities. Assumption of the risk is a complete bar to recovery for negligence and strict liability against a manufacturer. See, e.g., Sinai v. Polinger Co., 498 A.2d 520, 524 (D.C. 1985) (negligence); Young v. Up-Right Scaffolds, Inc., 205 U.S. App. D.C. 264, 637 F.2d 810, 815 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (strict liability). Assumption of the risk relieves the defendant of any duty he owed to the plaintiff because in such a case the plaintiff comprehended the danger and voluntarily decided to risk that danger. See Sinai v. Polinger Co., 498 A.2d at 524. The elements of assumption of the risk are: "actual knowledge and comprehension of a danger caused by the defendant's negligence and the plaintiff's voluntary exposure to that known danger." Morrison v. MacNamara, 407 A.2d 555, 567 (D.C. 1979).
In plaintiff's deposition he testified that he was aware that the treadle latch was not operating and that it had not been operating since the time he had been working at Todd-Allen, a period of approximately one year. (Plaintiff's Depo. at 22-24). To determine whether the plaintiff assumed the risk, the court must analyze "the plaintiff's age, intelligence, and experience." Morrison v. MacNamara, 407 A.2d at 567. Here, plaintiff was an experienced paper cutter, having approximately five years of experience in the field. (Plaintiff's Depo. at 6-8). Plaintiff further testified he had operated the paper cutter in question at least once a day during the year he had been employed at Todd-Allen. Id. at 20. The plaintiff in this case continued to operate the paper cutter despite his knowledge that the safety latch on the foot treadle was not working. This knowledge, coupled with his experience as a paper cutter, establishes as a matter of law that he assumed the risk that an injury would occur if he used the machine in its negligently maintained condition.
III. The Failure to Warn Claims
Plaintiff's failure to warn alleges claims which sound in strict liability and in negligence, and are evaluated under the same standard under District of Columbia law. See Payne v. Soft Sheen, 486 A.2d at 721. Under both standards, if a manufacturer's product "could result in foreseeable harm [the manufacturer] has a duty to give a warning which adequately advises the user of attendant risks and which provides specific directions for safe use." Id. (citations and quotations omitted) (emphasis in the original). See also Young v. Up-Right Scaffolds, 637 F.2d at 814 (a manufacturer is liable for failure to warn "only if it was reasonably foreseeable that the product, as labelled, would cause injury").
Plaintiff's injury on this machine was not a foreseeable harm when it left defendant's place of manufacture, since the injury could not have occurred with the safety latch in place. Further, the warning on the machine specifically stated, "DO NOT DEACTIVATE ANY SAFETY DEVICE." Someone had disengaged the safety latch in express contradiction to this warning. It would be patently unfair to require the manufacturer to equip every machine with a warning of what the consequences will be if warnings already in place are not followed. This is just another way of saying it can not be held to be foreseeable that someone would disregard the clear, express warning on a machine. Plaintiff's claim of failure to warn in support of his allegations of negligence and strict liability is without merit. For all of the foregoing reasons, defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment is granted.
An order consistent with this opinion has been entered this day.
ORDER - October 11, 1990, Filed
Upon consideration of the defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment, the oppositions thereto, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated in an accompanying Memorandum Opinion entered this day, it is by the Court this 11th day of October, 1990,
ORDERED that defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment is granted; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that this case is dismissed with prejudice.