Articles Posted in Dangerous Products

Recently, a California appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s product liability lawsuit against the popular online marketplace, Amazon, LLC (Amazon). According to the court’s opinion, the case arose after the plaintiff purchased a replacement laptop battery from a seller on Amazon. Amazon facilitated the payment, charged the plaintiff, retrieved the battery from an Amazon warehouse, prepared the product, and mailed it to the plaintiff. The battery exploded a few months after the plaintiff purchased and installed the product. The explosion caused the plaintiff to suffer serious burns.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against several parties, including Amazon and the seller who listed the website’s battery. The seller did not appear, and as such, the trial court entered a default judgment against them. Amazon moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they cannot be liable if they did not sell, distribute, or manufacture the product. The trial court found in favor of Amazon, and the plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that Amazon is strictly liable for defective products it lists on its website.

Strict liability is a theory that imposes legal responsibility on sellers, distributors, manufacturers for defective products, regardless of whether the party engaged in any negligence. Unlike many other types of personal injury cases, strict liability does not require the fact finder to determine the defendant was negligent. In most strict liability cases, the plaintiff must establish that the product was unreasonably safe when designed, manufactured, or sold. The seller intended or expected that the product would reach the consumer, and the plaintiff suffered actual harm by the defective product.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a California product liability claim against a pet store company after a man’s son contracted a bacterial infection from a rat he purchased at the store. The 10-year-old kept his rat in a vivarium at his grandmother’s house, but he occasionally held the animals outside the cage. About two weeks after the purchase, the young boy developed a fever and collapsed. Tragically, he passed away at the hospital shortly after he arrived. An analysis of his blood and tissue samples revealed that the rat carried the bacteria that caused the boy’s infection.

After his son’s death, the plaintiff alleged, among other claims, that the pet store was strictly liable for injuries that stemmed from the sale of the pet rat. The trial court issued a jury instruction under an ordinary negligence theory based on failure to warn, manufacturing defects, and design defects. However, on appeal, the plaintiff contended that the jury should have received a consumer expectations test warning instruction.

In analyzing the case, the court explained that California products liability law applies in situations where the defendant supplies goods or products for the use of others. These defendants are liable to losses that purchasers, users, or bystanders suffer because of the product’s defects. Although California law does not address whether animals are a product for strict liability purposes, courts generally rely on supplemental guidance, which explains that pets carrying bacteria are not subject to design defect claims.

A state appellate court recently addressed the applicability of the consumer expectations test in a California product liability claim against a forklift manufacturer. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries when a forklift he was operating tipped over. The forklift at issue is known as a “telehandler,” which is designed to work on rough terrain and travel off paved surfaces. These devices have a telescopic boom that can extend to carry loads to high elevations.

The telehandler had a steel cage around the operator that worked as a rollover protective system. The machine also had a two-point seat belt and a leveling system that allowed the operator to flatten a slope about 10 degrees. However, the safety manual warned that the telehandler should not be used on any slope over 10 degrees. Additionally, the manual stated that operators should not travel with the boom elevated because doing so could cause a rollover. The telehandler was sold with a door; however, in this case, the door was removed before the incident.

On the day of the incident, the plaintiff was asked to move several industrial ovens at a worksite. After performing an inspection of the machine, he got into the telehandler and traveled to the area with the ovens. He did this without wearing a seat belt and with the boom elevated. When he reached the area, and began to back up, the telehandler fell on its side, and the plaintiff fell out of the forklift.

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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