A federal court in Indiana has determined that a reasonable jury could find that the relationship between an injured plaintiff and the company that supplied the shirt he was wearing while employed as a welder/plasma torch operator “was predominantly for the sale of a service”; thus the court allowed the plaintiff’s negligence claim to proceed while granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on claims of product defect. Hathaway v. Cintas Corporate Servs., Inc., No. 1:10 CV 195 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ind., Fort Wayne Div., decided October 11, 2012).
The shirt, made of 100-percent cotton and untreated with any flame-retardant chemical, caught fire when a spark from the plaintiff’s plasma cutter contacted the shirt. He allegedly sustained serious burns to a substantial part of his body.
The court found that the plaintiff’s breach-of-warranty and product-liability claims merged into his claims under the Indiana Products Liability Act (IPLA). Because he failed to support those claims and some of his liability theories with sufficient evidence, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to these counts. As for the plaintiff’s negligence claim, the court determined that when, as here, a company provides clothes, including repair and laundering services, a jury could find that it is providing a service, and thus the negligence claim would not be merged into the IPLA. Under Indiana law, “The IPLA does not apply to transactions that involve wholly or predominantly the sale of a service rather than a product.”