Articles Posted in Dangerous Products

A state appellate court was recently tasked with deciding whether an amusement park could be held liable in a California product liability case after the plaintiff was injured while riding on a waterslide. The issue was whether the defendant amusement park was providing a service rather than a product. Ultimately, the court concluded that the record was insufficient to show the amusement park primarily delivered a service, and therefore, summary judgment for the defendant on the product liability claim was denied. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed towards trial or settlement negotiations.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured going down a waterslide at the amusement park. After slipping from a seated position on the inner tube onto his stomach, he fractured his hip and pelvis when his feet hit the bottom of the pool. Among other issues, the plaintiff claimed that the waterslide was a defective product that caused his injuries.

The amusement park claimed that it could not be held liable under a product liability theory because it provided a service, rather than a product. A successful product liability claim can hold a supplier or producer of a defective product liable, and also allows a plaintiff to recover compensation for injuries resulting from the defective product. However, product liability claims do not apply when the defendant is delivering a “service” to the consumer rather than supplying a product. For this particular case, the court needed to determine whether guests pay the admission fee to the amusement park to use the waterslides, in which case products liability applies, or if the admission fee is paid to obtain a service which may include the use of waterslides.

Recently, an appellate court issued a ruling on an appeal stemming from a California products liability suit. A woman specifically claimed, amongst other issues, that the company was liable for negligence, false representation, and intentional failure to warn/conceal the asbestos in their cosmetic and baby powders. Further, her husband filed claims based on the loss of consortium. The plaintiff argued that she developed malignant mesothelioma after using the company’s products daily for 20 years.

Johnson & Johnson moved for summary judgment based on its expert testimony that the company’s talcum powder and talc did not contain asbestos. Further, they argued that the plaintiffs did not present any expert testimony refuting the company’s expert testimony. The plaintiffs countered that the evidentiary burden did not shift to them because their discovery answers were sufficient, and in the alternative, their evidence demonstrated that the mines contained asbestos.

Under California law, if a defendant makes a “prima facie showing of the nonexistence of any triable issue” of material fact, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to make a contrary showing. California courts have found that if a defendant manufacturer meets its initial burden of production by making a prima facie showing that the plaintiff does not and cannot produce sufficient exposure evidence, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must then present evidence to raise a triable issue of material fact. In instances where a plaintiff’s claim stems from using a product not designed to contain asbestos, plaintiffs must show that it was “more likely than not” that the product was contaminated. Historically, courts have only overruled a defendant’s summary judgment motion in talc asbestos cases when the plaintiff presented expert testimony on the issue of contamination and exposure.

Earlier this month, a nine-year-old boy was injured when the inflatable bounce house that he was playing inside was lifted off the ground and blown onto a nearby highway. According to a local news report, the inflatable toy was blown from a residential neighborhood in Adelanto about a quarter-mile away onto Highway 395.

As the bounce house was falling back toward the ground, the young boy fell from the house onto the ground, sustaining minor injuries. The bounce house then rolled into a car. The driver of the car reported being “shook up” but was not injured. It is not clear whether any California personal injury claim will result from the events.

This was just the most recent of several accidents involving inflatable bounce houses over the past few years. The article discusses two other incidents in which bounce houses were blown away. In both cases, the children inside at the time suffered serious injuries.

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