Lambert, a mechanical engineer, used the Lastoplex's product Supremeo W-200, a lacquer sealer, in his basement when he was installing new floors. There were warnings on the can that risked that the product was flammable, and that it should be kept away from open flame. The plaintiff did not turn off his furnace or his hot water heater, both of which had natural gas pilot lights, as they were in a different room from the new flooring. The vapor of the sealer caused an explosion that burned the plaintiff and damaged the house. The warning labels on a competitor's product were more direct and stated to turn off all pilot lights before using. The trial judge found for the plaintiff but this was overturned at appeal and Lambert appealled to the Supreme Court.
- Is the manufacturer liable for injuries resulting from the regular use of its product, even though there were warnings posted on the canister?
- Does the plaintiff's engineering background mean that he understood the dangers more thoroughly and therefore submitted to them?
Appeal allowed, trial judge's ruling restored and costs awarded to the appellants.
Laskin, writing for the court, states that manufactures owe a duty of care to the users of their products and this duty does not end simply because a warning was given. He says that warnings must be very explicit and general warning will not suffice to eliminate liability where the likelihood of injury may increase depending on the surroundings.
The trial judge found that this was the case, and also that the plaintiff did not voluntarily assume the risk simply because he was an engineer. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed, and held that the plaintiff's "special knowledge" exonerated the manufacturer. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge, and states that volenti non fit injuria can only apply where it can be proven that the plaintiff appreciated the risk and willingly took it, which is not the case here.
- In order for volenti non fit injuria to apply the plaintiff must appreciate the risk associated with their actions and willingly take it despite the risk.
- Simply having a professional background in a related field will not lead to a finding that one automatically appreciated the risk.