This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Debra Little Voice,
by and through her guardian, Freda Morris,
Elevator Motors Corporation,
a New York corporation,
Otis Elevator Company,
a New Jersey corporation,
Filed March 5, 2002
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 0016259
Mark D. Streed, Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., 8360 City Center Drive, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125 (for appellant)
William M. Hart, Kenneth W. Dodge, Melissa Dosick Riethof, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Elevator Motors Corporation)
John F. Angell, Stich, Angell, Kreidler, Brownson & Ballou, P.A., 120 The Crossings, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for respondent Otis Elevator Corporation)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
Respondent, a manufacturer of elevator shackles, was granted summary judgment in an action brought by appellant, a mechanic’s helper who was injured by falling shackles. Because we agree with the district court that respondent did not have a duty to provide point-of-use instructions and installation warnings on its shackles and that there were no issues of fact as to the foreseeability of appellant’s co-worker’s misuse of the shackles or the shackles’ allegedly defective design, we affirm.
Appellant Debra Little Voice, a mechanic’s helper employed by Otis Elevator Company, was assigned to help mechanic Donald Miller (an Otis employee with more than 20 years’ experience working on elevators) install new elevator shackles manufactured by respondent Elevator Motors Corporation (EMCO). The safe installation of shackles requires three procedures: tightening two lock nuts together, inserting cotter pins in the shackles, and installing a lacing cable through the ends of the shackles. Although Miller knew he needed to insert cotter pins and install the lacing cable to prevent the cables and shackles from falling, he elected not to do so then. This resulted in the shackles and some elevator cables falling 17 stories and hitting appellant. She suffered brain damage that resulted in decreased intellect, mood swings, and inability to live independently.
In the ensuing action, respondent was awarded summary judgment. The district court concluded that respondent had no duty to warn because the dangers were within the scope of Miller’s professional knowledge; it also found that there were no issues of fact as to the foreseeability of his misuse of the shackles or as to their allegedly defective design. Appellant now challenges the summary judgment, contending that the district court erred as a matter of law in concluding that respondent had no duty to warn and that issues of material fact preclude summary judgment.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal from summary judgment, this court asks whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court erred in its application of the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990).
1. Duty to Warn
There is no duty to warn when a user knows or should know of a product’s potential danger. Minneapolis Soc’y of Fine Arts v. Parker-Klein Assocs. Architects, Inc., 354 N.W.2d 816, 821 (Minn. 1984), overruled on other grounds, Hapka v. Paquin Farms, 458 N.W.2d 683 (Minn. 1990). More specifically, there is no duty to warn of a product’s dangers when those dangers are within the user’s professional knowledge. Peppin v. W.H. Brady Co., 372 N.W.2d 369, 375 (Minn. App. 1985). Miller was a trained and experienced elevator mechanic. The evidence establishes that the dangers of failing to lace shackles and install cotter pins were well within his professional knowledge.
In Minneapolis Soc’y of Fine Arts,
the evidence was overwhelming that the architects employed by [the plaintiff] should have known that severe weathering could damage glazed brick curtain walls unless precautions set forth in Technical Note 13 were followed. Moreover, Technical Note 13 itself advised architects to consult with glazed brick manufacturers when intending to use ceramic brick for exterior use. They failed to do so. In addition, [plaintiff’s] own experts testified that construction custom and practice required the architect to initiate contact with the manufacturer. Under these circumstances, we conclude there existed no duty on [the manufacturer] to warn of potential problems with glazed brick when they were not shown plans and specifications for the project prior to construction.
Id. at 821-22. The situation here is similar in three ways: (1) Miller’s deposition testimony shows that he was aware that the use of cotter pins and lacing would prevent spinout; (2) Otis provided its employees with work-process manuals that required them to follow all safety policies and procedures and dealt specifically with lacing and cotter pins; (3) appellant’s expert witness provided evidence that (a) it was good safety practice for anyone working on an elevator system to insert cotter pins; (b) lacing is a universally recognized safety requirement commonly known in the industry; (c) a shackle is “only unreasonably dangerous if you’re not going to lace the shackles”; (d) he had never seen a shackle with attached instructions; and (e) if instructions were needed, it was the employer’s duty to provide them. Thus, Miller’s knowledge of the danger, Otis’s manuals, and the expert’s deposition testimony all support the district court’s determination that respondent had no duty to warn.
2. Alleged Genuine Issues of Material Fact
The deposition testimony of appellant’s expert also refutes appellant’s argument that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Miller’s misuse of respondent’s product was foreseeable and whether the shackle was defectively designed. The expert indicated that using cotter pins and lacing was common knowledge in the industry, and respondent could not have foreseen that a mechanic skilled and experienced in the industry would lack or ignore this knowledge. Appellant contends that the absence of left-hand threading is a design defect, but the expert testified that he had never seen or heard of a shackle designed with left-handed threading. Appellant also argues that Miller’s failure to follow the safety procedures raises a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the procedures were an industry standard, but by this reasoning, any failure to follow a standard would, ipso facto, prove there is no industry standard.
Finally, in a products-liability case, the plaintiff must prove that the product was being properly used. Magnuson v. Rupp Mfg., Inc., 285 Minn. 32, 45, 171 N.W.2d 201, 209 (1969). Appellant cannot meet that burden, nor can she prove that her injury was due to a defect in respondent’s shackle: her own expert testified that the shackle was not in a defective condition. See id. at 43, 171 N.W.2d at 208 (the defect must proximately cause the injury). The record is clear that it was a defect in Miller’s installation, not in respondent’s product, that caused appellant’s injury.
As a matter of law, respondent had no duty to warn, and no genuine issue of material fact precludes summary judgment.
 Appellant’s expert testified in his deposition that left-handed threading is virtually unknown in the industry and that he thought of it only in hindsight in connection with this accident. Five months later, he asserted in an affidavit that designing a shackle without left-handed threading makes the shackle unreasonably dangerous. To the extent that appellant considers this discrepancy to produce a genuine issue of material fact, we note that a genuine issue of material fact cannot be produced by “[a] self-serving affidavit that contradicts earlier damaging deposition testimony.” Banbury v. Omnitrition Int’l, Inc., 533 N.W.2d 876, 881 (Minn. App. 1995).