Federal Appeals Court Reverses Judgment Against Plaintiff in Product Liability Claim

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently published an opinion partially reversing a district court’s ruling in favor of the defendant in a product liability lawsuit filed by a man who was seriously burned in a fire that ignited while he was using a cleaning product manufactured by the defendant. The plaintiff sued the defendant under several theories of liability, including failure to warn as well as strict product liability and negligence.

The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendant on all of the plaintiff’s claims, but the Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff’s claims surrounding the allegedly defective design of the defendant’s product should not have been resolved without a trial. As a result of the recent appellate ruling, the plaintiff’s case will be remanded to the federal district court for further proceedings that may ultimately result in an award of damages for the plaintiff.

The Plaintiff Is Seriously Burned While Cleaning His Basement Floor with the Defendant’s Product

The plaintiff in the case of Suarez v. W.M. Barr & Co. is a man who attempted to clean paint off the floor of his basement with Goof Off, a cleaning product manufactured by the defendant. The main ingredient in the product is acetone, which is a highly flammable chemical that evaporates at room temperature. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff read the warnings on the product label before he poured the product on the floor of his basement floor and started scrubbing the area with a brush in accordance with the instructions. Although the exact cause of ignition was in dispute, a fire broke out and resulted in serious burns to the plaintiff’s head, face, neck, and hands. After suffering the injuries, the plaintiff sued the defendant in federal court, alleging that the warnings on the product label were inadequate and that the product itself was unreasonably dangerous.

The District Court Improperly Dismissed the Plaintiff’s Strict Liability Claim 

All of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant were rejected by the district court. The appellate court agreed that the plaintiff’s claim concerning the product warnings should not have gone to trial, but it found that the district court erred in rejecting the plaintiff’s strict product liability claim. Applying state law, the higher court found that the plaintiff presented a legally valid claim that the defendant marketed a product that had a dangerous condition when it left the defendant’s control and that ultimately led to the plaintiff’s injuries when the fire broke out. Based on these findings, the court ruled that a jury should have been allowed to hear testimony at trial to determine if the fire was the result of the plaintiff using the product as directed, and to potentially award the plaintiff damages as a result.

Manufacturer Liability for Dangerous Products Under Florida Law

Florida law protects consumers from dangerous products at many levels, including for injuries that result from improper design, manufacturing defects, or inadequate warnings accompanying dangerous products. In the event that a product is unreasonably dangerous by design, an injured consumer may be able to collect damages if they can show that the product failed to perform safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when it was used as intended by the manufacturer or in another manner that is reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer. Damages may also be awarded in cases in which the dangers inherent in product design outweigh the benefits derived for consumers from the design. Manufacturers also owe Florida consumers a duty to properly warn them of dangers existing in products that they market. South Florida consumers who are injured by a dangerous product may be entitled to damages even if the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or reseller was not themselves negligent.

Have You Been Injured by A Dangerous or Defective Product?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerously designed or defectively manufactured product, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. The South Florida product liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are able to asses whether you have a viable claim against the manufacturer or seller of a product, and we know when, how, and in which courts your case must be filed. Our skilled attorneys understand how to hold companies and individuals accountable for conduct that puts members of the public at risk. If you have been hurt, contact us today for a consultation with a South Florida personal injury attorney to discuss your product liability case. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Dismissal of Rollerblading Injury Case Affirmed by Appellate Court, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 1, 2016.

School Authorities Received Multiple Complaints About Bus Driver Prior to Tragic Fatal Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 6, 2016.

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