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Makers of Dangerous Lye Cleaner Face Product Liability Lawsuit

June 10, 2011
Colson Hicks Eidson

The New York Court of Appeals reinstated a plaintiff’s product liability lawsuit last month stemming from injuries he suffered from a lye-crystal drain cleaner. In 2001, the Vietnamese plaintiff was a restaurant employee in Manhattan and used Lewis Red Devil Lye to unclog a floor drain. Unable to read the English directions, he mixed three times the recommended amount of lye and water. The lye splashed-back from the drain, burning and blinding the plaintiff in one eye.

The plaintiff sued the manufacturer, distributor and package designer of Lewis Red Devil Lye, alleging defective design and insufficient warning. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff did not follow the instructions and warnings for the product, which clearly stated that misuse might cause a splash back. A judge dismissed the case before trial and an upper-court upheld the trial court’s decision.

In reversing the lower court, the court of appeals said that New York law required the defendants to show that their product does not present an unreasonable risk of harm to the user. The defendants cannot assume that everyone knows that lye is dangerous, added the court. The chief judge questioned whether it was reasonable for the defendants to place such a dangerous product in the stream of commerce in the first place.

Makers of dangerous products can be liable for injuries suffered by consumers. Contact a Florida injury lawyer if you suffer injuries from any household product or machinery. A Florida attorney is ready to speak with you.