Court Determines “Passive Retailer” May Still Be on the Hook for Dangerous Product

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a previous legal doctrine shielded passive retailers from liability in these circumstances, that doctrine was now outdated and no longer applicable.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.

The defendant was only a retail establishment and did not have anything to do with the design or manufacture of the goods it sold. In response to the plaintiff’s case, the furniture store asked the court to dismiss the case based on an existing legal doctrine called the “passive retailer doctrine.” Under the doctrine, a retailer of a product that had nothing to do with the design or manufacture of the product could not be held liable in a case in which the manufacturer was also named as a defendant. The idea was that the manufacturer was the party that was responsible for the design or manufacturing defect, and the retailer merely sold the product.

The court, however, rejected the defendant’s argument as well as the applicability of the passive retailer doctrine to future cases with similar facts. The court explained that since the origin of the passive retailer doctrine, the state legislature had passed sweeping legislation dealing with product liability claims. The new legislation applied a theory of strict liability to any business in a product’s chain of distribution. The court determined that the passive retailer doctrine conflicted with the new legislation and that the legislature was undoubtedly aware of the doctrine when passing the law. That being the case, the court determined that although the legislature never explicitly mentioned doing away with the passive retailer doctrine, the legislature’s actions indicated that intent.

As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed against both the manufacturer as well as the retailer of the chair that caused his injury.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to the use of a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuit. The dedicated team of Washington, D.C. product liability attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers has extensive experience representing victims in all types of product liability cases, and we know what it takes to be successful on our clients’ behalf. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case to Proceed Toward Trial, Based on Improperly Maintained Artificial Condition, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 18, 2017

Court Finds Church Does Not Have Duty to Assist Parishioners from Parking Lot into Church, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 4, 2017

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