Howmet Ltd v Economy Devices Ltd  EWCA CIV 847
In this case, the question was posed as to whether a
manufacturer/supplier of a defective product can escape liability
if the party who has suffered damage as a result of the defect
became aware of the defect before that damage occurred and decides
to continue to use the product?
The answer is that it is established law that product
manufacturers owe a duty of care to the end-user if the product is
defective and that leads to damage to property. However, in
the above case, the manufacturer had a lucky escape.
A factory owner, Howmet, had fire safety devices installed in a
number of tanks. Economy Devices manufactured those
devices. One of the devices failed on two separate occasions
causing fires which were both extinguished before any harm was
done. However, realising that the device was obviously
faulty, Howmet continued to use that device until a replacement was
ordered and fitted but in the meantime introduced their own
human-based fire avoidance systems.
Before the new device had been installed, the same faulty device
failed and a fire destroyed the factory causing £20m worth of
damage. However, when Howmet sued Economy Devices for their
loss, the Judge at first instance (and reaffirmed in the Court of
Appeal thereafter) found that although the device in question was
faulty the Claimant had had knowledge of the defects and had
reverted to relying upon a human-based safety system.
Therefore it could not be said that the failed device had been a
cause of the fire.
If you become aware of a faulty product and continue to use it
voluntarily you normally give up your right to claim for damage
flowing from that defective product. Replace the product
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