Articles Posted in Products Liability

Products that are made for young children and marketed to parents are assumed to be safe. However, that is not always the case. Each year, hundreds of Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuits are filed based on dangerous or defective products; many of these products are designed for children.

In April, the toy giant Fisher-Price issued a recall of its popular baby sleeper, the Rock ‘n Play, after there had been more than 30 reports of babies dying while using the sleeper. According to an article by the Washington Post, the Rock ‘n Play was created in 2009 in response to the common concern for many parents that their babies would not sleep through the night.

Unlike cribs, bassinets, and other baby sleepers, the Rock ‘n Play allows babies to lie at a 30-degree angle, which was believed to help infants sleep longer. In fact, the company advertised that, “Baby can sleep at a comfortable incline all night long!” However, according to the Washington Post, Fisher-Price developed the sleeper without any clinical research, based on what have now come to be faulty beliefs about babies and how they sleep.

To successfully bring a Washington, D.C. personal injury case, a plaintiff must be able to prove not just that the defendant was negligent but also that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries. While the concept of causation may sound like a straightforward determination, in practice, the element can be exceedingly complex.

Causation can be broken down into two separate inquiries, the first being “but for” causation, or cause-in-fact. To satisfy the cause-in-fact element, the plaintiff must show that absent the defendant’s negligence, the accident would not have occurred. In most cases, cause-in-fact is not difficult to establish.

The second part of a causation inquiry is called proximate cause, or legal cause. Not only is proximate cause much more complicated, but it is also more challenging to prove. Proximate cause requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injuries are sufficiently related to say that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

When a product is released for sale to the general public, the manufacturer of the product is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe for its intended use and does not present an unreasonable risk of injury. If someone is injured due to a product that suffers from a design defect, the injury victim can file a Washington, D.C. product liability claim against the manufacturer.

Typically, Maryland product liability claims are brought under the theory of strict liability, meaning that an injury victim does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent; only that the defectively designed product caused their injuries. However, certain exceptions to this general rule exist. A recent case involving a rented Bobcat light-construction vehicle discusses one of the more common exceptions.

According to the court’s opinion, a man rented a Bobcat skid-steer loader from a rental agency. The machine was an open-framed vehicle that was used for light construction and demolition tasks that could be fitted with hundreds of attachments, depending on the intended use of the machine. A door-kit was one of these add-ons.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of expert selection in Washington, D.C. product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses was based on sufficiently reliable methodology. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of both witnesses was properly excluded by the trial court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a college student who died in a fire that started in the boy’s room. Investigators found the boy’s laptop among the debris. The plaintiffs presented two expert witnesses to testify that, in their opinion, the fire was started when the battery in the laptop malfunctioned.

The first expert had a PhD in inorganic chemistry and was an expert in battery safety. He testified that upon inspecting the batteries in the laptop, one of the three cells had ruptured. He further explained that a battery cell can only rupture in certain circumstances, including electrically abusive condition,s mechanically abusive conditions, high temperatures (such as a fire), or an internal problem with the battery.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Utah issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit discussing the liability of a retailer that had nothing to do with the design or manufacture of a reclining chair that crushed the plaintiff’s foot. The court held that, although a previous legal doctrine shielded passive retailers from liability in these circumstances, that doctrine was now outdated and no longer applicable.

The case is instructive to Washington, D.C. residents who have recently been injured due to a dangerous or defective product and may be considering a Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff purchased a reclining chair from the defendant furniture store. The chair purchased by the plaintiff came with a foot-massage feature. While the plaintiff was using the feature, the chair crushed his left foot. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against both the manufacturer of the chair as well as the defendant furniture retailer. This appeal deals only with the furniture retailer.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case brought by a homeowner who sustained serious injuries after he fell while using the ladder manufactured by the defendant. The court hearing the case had to determine if the expert testimony provided by the plaintiff was properly admitted by the trial judge. Finding that it was, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a homeowner who was using a ladder manufactured by the defendant to change a few rusty screws in the gutter above his garage. The homeowner climbed the ladder, but before he could complete the job, the ladder buckled under his weight. The homeowner struck his head on the pavement of his driveway, causing bleeding and bruising in his brain. As a result, the homeowner now suffers from seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia.

The homeowner filed a product liability lawsuit against the ladder’s manufacturer, claiming that the ladder was not designed to support a 200-pound person and that a safer and feasible alternative existed. In support of his claim, the homeowner provided two experts. One expert focused his testimony on the durability of the ladder and whether it could support a 200-pound person. This expert concluded that the ladder may not have been able to support a 200-pound person, depending on how the weight was distributed. The other expert testified that the way the homeowner had placed the ladder was proper and that more substantial support beams on the ladder could have prevented it from buckling under the homeowner’s weight.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case filed by a man who was injured when the solution he was using to clean his basement floor erupted into flames. In the case, Suarez v. W.M. Barr & Company, the plaintiff brought both a failure-to-warn claim as well as a general negligence claim. The court affirmed the dismissal of the failure-to-warn claim but held that there was an issue of triable fact regarding the negligence claim.

The Facts of the Case

Suarez purchased a gallon of the defendant’s Goof Off product to clean his basement floors. Suarez read the warnings on the product’s packaging and accordingly opened doors and windows in the basement to ventilate the area. While following the packaging’s instructions, the product caught fire, severely burning Suarez. Suarez then filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of Goof Off. Specifically, he claimed that the warning on the product’s packaging was inadequate and also that the product was unreasonably dangerous.

Suarez presented experts who testified that the active ingredient in Goof Off, acetone, could have been agitated, causing the fire. However, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on both claims, and Suarez appealed to a higher court.

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After someone is injured in any kind of accident, they may seek financial compensation from the at-fault party through a personal injury lawsuit. However, before a party’s case is heard by a court, several facts must first be established. One very important fact that must be determined before a case is heard is whether the court where the case is filed has “jurisdiction” over the defendant and the case.

Jurisdiction is a legal term that refers to a court’s ability to issue a binding order on a party. If a court does not have jurisdiction over the parties, it will not be able to legally hear the case, and any ruling or verdict in the case will be invalid. Therefore, before a case proceeds to trial, jurisdiction must first be established.

Jurisdiction is actually a complex legal subject that is often argued and contains many nuances. There are two types of jurisdiction, each of which must be established. They are personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to implement an order binding the parties. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear the specific topic of the case being filed.

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Earlier this month, a personal injury plaintiff’s appeal was thrown out for failing to object to the error he alleged occurred at trial. The court in Stults v. International Flavors held that the plaintiff’s failure to object to the curative jury instruction given by the trial judge in response to objectionable testimony by an expert prevented him from raising that issue on appeal. This case illustrates the importance of retaining an attentive and knowledgeable team of attorneys.

The Facts of the Case

This case arose after the plaintiff developed a lung disease. He claimed that he developed the disease because he consumed microwavable popcorn manufactured by the defendant every day for 20 years. He also submitted evidence that showed the chemical used to give the popcorn its buttery flavor can cause the very lung disease he was diagnosed with when people are exposed in high doses.

At trial, both plaintiff and defendant had expert witnesses testify to the cause of plaintiff’s lung disease. At some point in the trial, a defense expert made an improper comment on the evidence and the plaintiff objected. The court sustained the plaintiff’s objection and the jury was told to disregard the defense expert’s testimony on that issue. After the trial, the jury determined that the plaintiff did not prove his case.

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Earlier this month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower state court decision, allowing the plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit to proceed toward trial despite the defendant’s challenges to the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. In the case, Seamon v. Remington Arms Company, the plaintiff was the wife of a man who had died while hunting alone with his Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband left to go hunting by himself back in November 2011. He had an elevated stand up in the trees from which he would hunt. However, after several hours of failing to return text messages from his family, they called police. Police found the man dead in the elevated tree stand, with his rifle 13 feet below. There was a rope attached to the rifle’s scope, the safety was off, and there was a spent shell in the chamber. There was no gunshot residue on the man, leading investigators to believe he was at least five to 10 feet away when the gun fired. No one witnessed the shooting.

The man’s wife filed a product liability case against the manufacturer of the rifle, claiming that her husband died as a result of a defect in the gun. The plaintiff had an expert testify that, in his experience, the trigger mechanism in the Model 700 rifle was subject to sporadic firing. He testified that in cases of sporadic firing, there are usually some deposits in the fire control housing of the gun. He further testified that upon examination, the gun the plaintiff’s husband was using had deposits in the fire control housing. This led the expert to believe that the gun may have accidentally fired without having the trigger pulled.

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