Estrada v. Schmutz Mfg. Co., Inc., 83-2524

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Citation734 F.2d 1218
Docket NumberNo. 83-2524,83-2524
PartiesTerry E. ESTRADA and Phillip Estrada, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. SCHMUTZ MANUFACTURING COMPANY, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date06 June 1984

John F. Townsend, Jr., Townsend, Hovde, Townsend & Montross, Indianapolis, Ind., for plaintiffs-appellants.

William Osborn, Osborn & Hiner, Indianapolis, Ind., for defendant-appellee.

Before POSNER and COFFEY, Circuit Judges, and FLOYD R. GIBSON, Senior Circuit Judge. *

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

This appeal requires us to consider the scope and application of Indiana's "open and obvious" rule of products liability. Terry Estrada worked in a factory in Indiana owned by Anheuser-Busch. Her job was to feed bags into a bag printer that had been manufactured by the Schmutz Manufacturing Company. The ink for the rollers through which the bags pass comes from an inkwell in the machine. Although Schmutz sells paste ink to use with its machines, Anheuser-Busch had bought liquid ink from another supplier, and this ink leaked from the inkwell and as a result the rollers were not properly inked. Mrs. Estrada went to a storage room and got a paint brush, and a can that she filled with ink. She then climbed to the top of the machine on a step provided for getting up to it. The top of the machine, where the rollers are, is six and a half feet off the ground. When Mrs. Estrada reached the top she applied the ink directly to the rollers with the paint brush, which she held in a gloved hand. This did not work well with the machine turned off, because she could apply the ink only to the exposed portion of the rollers. So she turned the machine on, and inked the rollers while they were turning. They were turning rapidly, inwards toward each other, and the paint brush and then the glove holding it got drawn in between the rollers, and her hand was mangled. She brought this suit against Schmutz charging that Schmutz's failure to shield the rollers made the machine unreasonably dangerous and therefore made Schmutz strictly liable for her injury. The basis of federal jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship, and all agree that Indiana law governs the substantive issues in the case. The district judge gave summary judgment for Schmutz on the ground that the danger from the moving rollers was obvious, and Mrs. Estrada has appealed.

The Indiana courts hold that a manufacturer is not liable for injuries caused by "an open and obvious danger" in the manufacturer's product. This rule is illustrated by Bryant-Poff, Inc. v. Hahn, 454 N.E.2d 1223 (Ind.App.1982), appeal dismissed, --- U.S. ----, 104 S.Ct. 1433, 79 L.Ed.2d 756 (1984). The plaintiff in that case was working on a vertical conveyor that was powered by an electric motor which drove a chain and sprocket device. The motor was off when the plaintiff reached between the chain and sprocket to touch up a rust spot behind the sprocket with his paint brush. Just then the manager turned on the motor, activating the chain and sprocket device, which crushed the plaintiff's arm. The Indiana Appellate Court held that since the danger that the sprocket and chain device might suddenly start up was open and obvious, the manufacturer was not liable for the plaintiff's injury. Other product liability cases illustrating Indiana's open and obvious rule include Bemis Co. v. Rubush, 427 N.E.2d 1058, 1064 (Ind.1981); American Optical Co. v. Weidenhamer, 457 N.E.2d 181, 188 (Ind.1983); Shanks v. A.F.E. Industries, Inc., 416 N.E.2d 833, 837 (Ind.1981); Coffman v. Austgen's Elec., Inc., 437 N.E.2d 1003, 1008 (Ind.App.1982).

Mrs. Estrada takes strong issue with the rule, arguing for example that the Indiana courts have ignored the state's 1978 products liability act, which makes no reference to such a rule. But she is addressing her arguments to the wrong forum. We have no power to alter Indiana law, whether statutory or judge-made. A diversity plaintiff who wants a change in state law should bring his suit in state rather than federal court; and especially since Mrs. Estrada is an Indiana resident suing a nonresident corporation, she is in no position to resist that course on the ground that the Indiana state courts would be an...

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  • Thomas v. Shelton, s. 83-1666
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 6 Julio 1984
    ...N.E.2d 1003, 1008 (Ind.App.1982), where a 12-year-old boy was injured--also by an auger--and our recent decision in Estrada v. Schmutz Mfg. Co., 734 F.2d 1218 (7th Cir.1984). There is no suggestion that the danger inhered in some latent defect in the Sheltons' auger. The danger was in the a......
  • Phelps v. Sherwood Medical Industries, 86-3119
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 17 Diciembre 1987
    ...due to attempted removal after suturing and routing to the heart cavity was both open and obvious, Estrada v. Schmutz Manufacturing Co., Inc., 734 F.2d 1218, 1220 (7th Cir.1984), this Court holds that Sherwood did not have to warn Rubush of those dangers which he already 2. An unforeseeable......
  • Leon v. Caterpillar Indus., Inc., 94-3152
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 22 Noviembre 1995
    ...misuse of a product is a complete defense to product liability. Underly, 605 N.E.2d at 1189; see also Estrada v. Schmutz Mfg. Co., Inc., 734 F.2d 1218, 1221 (7th Cir.1984); Ind.Code Sec. 33-1-1.5-4(b)(2). 19 Leon contends that the jury should have been instructed that, as a matter of law, t......
  • First Nat. Bank of Dwight v. Regent Sports Corp., 83 C 4724.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • 8 Octubre 1985
    ...example, when no legal duty exists or when the party's conduct cannot be the proximate cause of the injury. Estrada v. Schmutz Manufacturing Co., Inc., 734 F.2d 1218 (7th Cir.1984); Collins v. American Optometric Ass'n, 693 F.2d 636 (7th Cir.1982); 10A Wright, Miller and Kane, Federal Pract......
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