983 F.2d 111 (8th Cir. 1993), 91-3771, Fink v. Foley-Belsaw Co.

Docket Nº:91-3771.
Citation:983 F.2d 111
Party Name:William FINK and Betty Fink, Appellants, v. FOLEY-BELSAW CO., Appellee.
Case Date:January 05, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 111

983 F.2d 111 (8th Cir. 1993)

William FINK and Betty Fink, Appellants,

v.

FOLEY-BELSAW CO., Appellee.

No. 91-3771.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 5, 1993

Submitted Sept. 16, 1992.

Page 112

Richard Everett Dorr, Springfield, MO, argued (Richard E. Dorr and John R. Lightner, on the brief), for appellants.

Thomas R. Larson, Kansas City, MO, argued (Thomas R. Larson and M. Joan Cobb, on the brief) for appellee.

Before BOWMAN, Circuit Judge, HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge, and HANSEN, Circuit Judge.

HANSEN, Circuit Judge.

Appellants William Fink and his wife, Betty Fink, brought a products liability action against Foley-Belsaw Company (Foley). After a six day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Foley, and the district court 1 denied the Finks' motion for a new trial. The Finks appeal. We affirm.

I.

The product in question is Foley's M-14 sawmill. The M-14 sawmill does not come equipped with a power source, but is designed so that its mandrel shaft (which drives the saw blade) can be connected to a separate power source. Kerry Middleton purchased an M-14 sawmill. He decided to power his sawmill using a farm tractor's power take-off (PTO) connection. Middleton rented Finks' tractor for this purpose. To connect the tractor's PTO shaft to the saw's mandrel shaft, a yoke was welded onto the PTO shaft, the yoke was placed over the mandrel shaft, a hole was then drilled through the yoke and the mandrel shaft, and a bolt was inserted through the hole to connect the PTO shaft to the saw's mandrel shaft. The bolt extended outward two to three inches beyond the yoke.

Middleton hired Fink to operate the M-14 sawmill. While the sawmill was operating, Fink would reach in with a long-handled shovel to clear away the accumulated sawdust and then would adjust the belts. Once when he did so, his pant leg became caught on the unguarded extended bolt on the rotating yoke/shaft, and he lost part of his right leg.

Page 113

The Finks proceeded to trial against Foley on one theory: Foley's product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when sold because Foley knew that some power source connection was to be made on the mandrel shaft, but failed to take steps that would adequately assure a safe connection. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Foley. The district court denied Finks' motion for a new trial in a written order.

On appeal, the Finks raise three arguments. 2 First, they contend that the district court erred in giving a jury instruction defining "unreasonably dangerous defective condition" during jury deliberations. Second, the Finks assert that the district court erred in failing to grant their new trial motion because of improper statements and questions by defense counsel. Finally, they argue that the district court erred in denying their motion for new trial because the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.

II.

The jury began its deliberations at 1:45 p.m. on the sixth day of trial. At approximately 4:00 p.m., the jury sent the court a question, "May we have a dictionary for definitions?" The...

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