Federal Appeals Court Affirms Judgment for Defendant in Product Liability Lawsuit

The Eighth Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a jury verdict in favor of a defendant after a trial was held on the plaintiffs’ allegations surrounding the death of their 23-month-old son. The boy drowned in a pond after he climbed from his crib in the middle of the night and left his home, getting past a doorknob cover that was intended to keep the child from using the door. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court was mistaken in permitting testimony that the boy’s mother failed to secure a secondary chain lock on the door on the night of the boy’s death.

The Tragic Drowning of the Plaintiffs’ Child

The plaintiffs in the case of Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group were the parents of a boy who died after he wandered from the family home in the middle of the night and drowned in a nearby pond. The boy’s parents awoke in the morning to find the front door to their home ajar and the boy missing from his crib. Minutes later, the boy’s father found him floating unresponsive in the pond, approximately 50 yards from the home. The defendant in the case was the manufacturer of a doorknob cover that the couple had received as a gift and had been using to keep the child from operating the front door. After the boy’s death, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging that the doorbell cover was a dangerous product that failed to work as intended and that it was negligently manufactured and marketed by the defendant.

The Jury Found the Defendant Was Not at Fault at Trial

The plaintiffs’ product liability and negligence claims went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. During trial, evidence was introduced over the plaintiffs’ objection that the parents had previously witnessed their son defeating the doorknob cover, and they installed a chain lock on the front door after noticing this. The defendant argued at trial that the plaintiffs knew the doorknob cover wouldn’t keep the child from leaving the home, and they were negligent by failing to use the additional lock. The jury was not required to explain their decision on the verdict form and indicated only that the defendant should not be liable for the boy’s death.

Plaintiffs Appeal the Ruling, Disputing the Relevance of the Evidence Concerning the Chain Lock

After the jury verdict was finalized, the plaintiffs appealed the judgment to the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the trial judge incorrectly overruled their objection to the introduction of evidence regarding the chain lock. The appellate court did not address whether the evidence should have been admitted by the district court, affirming the lower ruling based on the plaintiffs’ inability to show that they were prejudiced by the lower court’s evidentiary ruling, a showing that is necessary for the appellate court to reverse the lower decision. The Eighth Circuit explained that there was no way to know if the jury’s verdict was based on the challenged evidence or relied on one of the other defense theories in the case, so they could not disturb the ruling below.

Requirements for a Florida Product Liability Claim

Florida law protects consumers from dangerous or defective products by allowing manufacturers to be held responsible for injuries or deaths that have been caused by their products. There are four elements in a Florida product liability claim, and all of them must be met for a plaintiff to be entitled to relief. A plaintiff must first prove that the product was either defectively designed, defectively manufactured, or marketed without an appropriate warning. A plaintiff must also show that they were using the product as intended, and the defect or failure to warn was the proximate cause of actual injuries suffered by the plaintiff or their family member. The process of making a successful Florida product liability claim depends on the specific facts of each case. Victims should consult with a licensed attorney to determine the strength of their case.

Contacting the Right Attorney for a Product Liability Claim

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a defective or unreasonably dangerous consumer product, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer. The experienced South Florida product liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can review your case and offer knowledgeable representation for your claim. Friedman, Rodman & Frank accepts clients throughout South Florida in product liability, medical malpractice, and other negligence cases. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and case review. Call toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our online form to set up a meeting today. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

Court Affirms Judgment for Defendant in Case Filed after Fatal Skateboarding Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 30, 2016.

State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Medical Malpractice Plaintiff’s Attempt to Extend Statute of Limitations, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 15, 2016.

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