Lewis v. Am. Cyanamid Co. (Supreme Ct., NJ)

Ronald David Coleman

Case Conclusion Date:July 20, 1998

Practice Area:Defective / Dangerous Products

Outcome:Dismissal of failure to warn products claim aff'd

Description:From the decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court: Plaintiff consumer, who sustained severe burns from the use of an insecticide in contravention of its instructions, sued defendant companies, the product's maker and seller. Plaintiff asserted a failure to warn of dangers and defects in design and manufacturing. The failure-to-warn claim was dismissed and the jury rejected the manufacturing defect claim, while returning a verdict for plaintiff on the design defect claim. However, judgment for defendants notwithstanding the verdict was entered. The appellate division upheld the dismissal of the failure-to-warn claim, but reversed the judgment n.o.v. and remanded the case for retrial solely on the issues of damages and comparative negligence. On review, the court affirmed in part, holding that the failure-to-warn claim was preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodentia Act, 7 U.S.C.S. § 136 et seq., and federal labeling regulations. The court concluded by reversing in part, finding that remand was necessary because of improper jury instructions on assumption of risk and noting that retrial of defendant's liability also was required where it was intertwined with plaintiff's comparative fault.