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Florida Appeals Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Argument in Recent Product Liability Case

In a recent case, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a product liability case between a plaintiff that purchased a motorcycle, and the defendant, a motorsports dealer. The plaintiff was injured riding the motorcycle shortly after purchasing it when the motorcycle spun out of control. He brought suit against the defendant for negligence during the assembly and servicing process as well as in a product liability capacity. Following the hearing, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s entire lawsuit based on an exculpatory clause contained within the sales contract that he signed when purchasing the motorcycle.

In 2018, the plaintiff purchased a Suzuki brand motorcycle from the defendant, signing a sales contract containing exculpatory language releasing the defendant dealer from liability. Shortly after buying the motorcycle, the plaintiff was involved in a serious accident and sustained serious bodily injuries. According to the plaintiff, as he was riding it, the front end of the motorcycle began to wobble and thrash, causing him to lose control and crash into another motor vehicle. Following the accident, he sued the defendant, claiming the dealer was negligent in assembling, setting up, servicing, repairing, and or inspecting the motorcycle prior to the sale. Additionally, the plaintiff sued the defendant in its capacity as a seller in the stream of commerce for strict product liability and negligent product liability arising out of manufacturing defects, design defects, and the failure to warn of those defects. At trial, the defendant moved to dismiss the defendant’s complaint based on the exculpatory clause he signed during the purchase. The plaintiff filed a response opposing the dismissal. The trial court subsequently granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s entire suit with prejudice based on the exculpatory clause.

On appeal, the plaintiff argues the trial court erred by dismissing the strict product liability counts because the exculpatory clause, due to its plain language, only applied to negligence-based claims. In the appellate court opinion, the appeals court found that much like the public policy driving Florida’s regulation behind licensing of building contractors and building construction standards, the public policy behind adopting the theory of strict liability is rooted in the concept of protecting the safety of consumers. As a result, the exculpatory clause, in this case, purporting to absolve a retailer of liability from strict liability in tort for injuries caused by defects in products it places on the market likewise violates public policy. As a result, the appellate court reversed the portion of the order dismissing the three strict product liability counts.

Have You Suffered Injuries From a Flawed Product?

If you or someone you love has suffered from a product liability injury in Florida, the lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada can help you understand your rights and the remedies available to you. Our team of attorneys has successfully advocated for injured individuals throughout Florida for 46 years. Expenses and injuries sustained from products can quickly become overwhelming, and having an experienced roster of attorneys by your side can make a world of difference for your claim. Contact our team at 305-448-8585 to schedule a free and no-obligation initial consultation with a lawyer at our office.

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