State Supreme Court Affirms Wrongful Death Verdict in Favor of Smoke Detector Manufacturer

The Supreme Court of the State of Alabama recently published an opinion that affirmed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendants regarding a wrongful death claim filed against the manufacturer of a smoke detector that failed to prevent the death of the plaintiffs’ daughter in a 2011 mobile home fire. The high court affirmed both the district court’s judgment to prevent some of the plaintiffs’ claims from being considered by the jury at trial, as well as the jury’s verdict, which rejected the plaintiffs’ remaining claims made at trial. Based on the most recent appellate rulings, the plaintiffs will not be compensated for the expenses and loss related to the tragic death of their daughter.

FireThe Plaintiffs’ Child Dies in a Tragic 2011 Fire

The plaintiffs in the case of Hosford v. BRK Brands, Inc. were the parents of a young girl who died in a fire that occurred in their mobile home on the night of May 20, 2011. The defendant manufactured two smoke alarms that were installed in the plaintiffs’ home prior to the fire. According to the facts discussed in the recent appellate opinion, the plaintiffs filed several claims against the defendant after their child’s death, alleging that the smoke alarms were defectively designed and failed to give the family adequate warning to safely escape and save their daughter’s life. Although the plaintiffs agreed that at least one of the smoke alarms sounded an alarm after the fire broke out, they claimed that the defendant’s product did not sound the alarm as soon as it should have, preventing them from rescuing their daughter before she perished in the fire.

After Trial, the District Court Refuses to Submit Several of the Plaintiffs’ Claims to the Jury

The plaintiffs brought several claims against the defendant to hold them responsible for their daughter’s death, including a negligence claim, a failure-to-warn claim, a general breach-of-warranty claim, and a product liability claim. After the parties presented their cases, the trial judge ruled that only the plaintiffs’ product liability claim was supported by enough evidence to be considered by the jury, and it entered judgments in favor of the defendant on the other claims. The jury reached a verdict in favor of the defendant on the remaining claim, resulting in the plaintiffs’ appeal.

The Court Rules that the Plaintiffs’ Product Liability Claim Should Not Have Been Considered by the Jury

The plaintiffs argued on appeal that the trial court made unfavorable rulings that excluded evidence from the trial and gave the jury misleading instructions that unfairly prejudiced their case. The high court declined to consider the plaintiffs’ arguments, ruling that the plaintiffs did not present enough evidence for any of the claims to be considered by the jury. The court focused on Alabama’s requirement that a plaintiff prove the availability of a safer alternative design to the dangerous product manufactured by the defendant, and it pointed out that the plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence of a safer alternative to allow the jury to rule in their favor.

Florida Law Does Not Require Proof of a Safer Alternative in Product Liability Cases

Unlike in Alabama, Florida law does not require a product liability plaintiff to prove the existence of a safer alternative design to a dangerous product before their claim can be heard by a jury. Florida law allows such evidence to be introduced in support of a plaintiff’s claim but does not require it. Florida follows a modified version of what is known as the “consumer expectations test” to determine if a defendant’s product is unreasonably dangerous or defective, and a skilled South Florida product liability attorney may have many options at their disposal to prove a defendant’s liability for a dangerous product under Florida law.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous or Defective Consumer Product?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a dangerous or defective product, the South Florida product liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can help you make a case for damages from the product’s manufacturer. Our lawyers are familiar with the recent changes to Florida negligence law that may make it easier for the victims of dangerous products to hold manufacturers accountable for the products they sell to the public. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in product liability and other negligence cases throughout South Florida. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case. Call us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our web-based form to get us started on your case today.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Court Awards Additional Damages to Plaintiff Based On Insurance Company’s Bad Faith, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 9, 2016.

Blatant Surgical Errors Remain Startlingly Common Despite Technological Advances in Medicine, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 18, 2016.

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