Tote Pump Liability

Any company in the business of selling a tote pump should be aware of possible exposure to unique liability. This is true because special laws apply to this specific product under specific fact patterns unique to this product. The earliest case law involving this particular product or a product sufficiently similar so as to make a logical comparison is the case of Marbury v. Sedgwick (15 AL 35 1984). In this matter before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, a man made use of a faulty tote pump in order to extract the contents from a container for which the product was not designed.


During the course of the product’s use for which it was not designed the man in question slipped on a puddle of oil that spilled from the non conforming drum. The man sued the company that manufactured the product for pain and suffering as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. The company argued that the man lacked standing to sue because he used the product in a manner that it was not intended to be used. The issue before the court revolved around whether the manufacturer of a product can be held liable when an injury results from the use of the product in a manner for which the product was not manufactured to be used, and if so, does the unintended and non conforming use of said product mitigate the company’s liability in any, way shape or form.

The court ruled that the manufacturer of the product could not be held liable when a person who purchased the product used it in a manner in which it was not intended to be used. However, a company could be held liable if the unintended use of the product seemed to be an obvious use of the product and the company failed to warn the buyer of this fact.