On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.
Lora, Antell and Pressler. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lora, P.J.A.D.
On March 22, 1974, plaintiff Shirley Mott was injured in the course of her employment for Clevepak Corporation as a "packer" on or near a punch press machine. At the time of her accident steel coil was being fed from a stock reel to the punch press at which she was working. Plaintiff turned and stepped between the reel and the roll feed at a point where the steel coil was running approximately 1/2 inch above the ground from the stock reel to the punch press to which the roll feed was affixed, and the tendon and nerves in her ankle and foot were severed by the sharp stock material.
Plaintiff brought suit against Callahan AMS Machinery Company (Callahan), Cooper Weymouth Company, Cooper Weymouth Maine, Inc., Cooper Weymouth Peterson Inc., Carl G. Peterson Co., Sterling Radiator Company Inc. and Reed National Corporation -- all of which, except for Callahan, are related corporations through merger and consolidation. The machinery consisted of a punch press, a double roll feed and a double-motorized stock reel which were ordered by plaintiff's employer Clevepak from defendant Callahan and delivered on November 4, 1970. The punch press was manufactured by defendant Callahan, the roll feed by Cooper Weymouth Company and the stock reel by Cooper Weymouth Maine, Inc. When the roll feed
was delivered to Callahan it was attached by bolts to the punch press by Callahan.
Callahan denies that it advised Clevepak how to install this equipment and, more particularly, the distance to be maintained between the stock reel and the punch press. The roll feed and the stock reel could be utilized with machines other than a punch press.
Plaintiff's products liability action is bottomed on alleged defective design in that it failed to provide safety guards between the stock reel and punch press, thereby exposing the steel coil notwithstanding it not only permitted but contemplated that they be far enough apart so as to permit someone to walk between them. The instruction sheet for the motorized stock reel, issued by its manufacturer, Cooper Weymouth Maine, Inc., specified that when its stock reel is used there should be a distance of six to ten feet between the reel and the other machine to which material is being fed.
Callahan, by way of cross-claim, contends Cooper Weymouth was negligent in specifying the distance between the stock reel and punch press without providing a guard or barrier since it knew and should have foreseen that there would be a zone of danger created by the unguarded space. Callahan further asserts that it "simply supplied" both parts to Clevepak and did not inform Clevepak as to how far apart the machines should be when in operation.
Sterling Radiator, Reed National and Carl G. Peterson argued that it was Callahan's responsibility to place safety devices between the reel and the press machine since the reel is designed to feed different kinds of machines and a uniform guard rail would be inappropriate because some materials such as cloth that are fed with the Cooper Weymouth reel are not dangerous.
Summary judgments in favor of the Cooper Weymouth companies were granted below on the grounds that they had furnished only a component part rather than a separate machine
and that Callahan sold the punch press, motorized reel and roll feed as a package and therefore was the only defendant responsible for installing safety devices. The remaining controversy between plaintiffs and Callahan was settled. Both plaintiffs and Callahan contend that the dismissal of the complaint as against all other defendants was error since there was a genuine issue of material fact as to the liability of the Cooper-Weymouth defendants precluding summary judgment. Defendants counter that as manufacturers ...