The Limits of Strict Liability in Florida Defective Product Cases

Companies or individuals that manufacture, market, or distribute consumer products in Florida have a duty to ensure that the products are safe for public use. If a person is injured or killed while using a dangerous product, the companies who manufactured or sold the product may be liable for damages stemming from the incident, however, many exceptions apply to this theory of liability. The Florida Court of Appeal recently denied a plaintiff’s claim against the manufacturer of a computer duster product that was misused and resulted in a car accident that injured the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a man who was injured when a driver lost control of her vehicle and crashed into cars parked in his driveway, pinning him under a vehicle and resulting in serious injury. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the woman driving had recently purchased and inhaled a can of computer duster manufactured by the defendant corporation and sold by Walmart (also a defendant in the case). The woman admitted to using the computer duster to “get high,” and was charged with a felony DUI offense after the crash.

The accident victim sued the driver for negligence based on the injuries he suffered in the crash, and also sued both Walmart and the product manufacturer for designing, marketing, and selling a dangerous product. Using a strict liability theory of negligence, the plaintiff claimed that the manufacturer and seller of the computer duster could be held accountable for reasonably foreseeable conduct that resulted from selling the product, namely that it could be abused as an intoxicant. In response to the plaintiff’s claim, the defendants disputed their liability for the crash, arguing that strict liability should only apply if a person is using the product as intended by the manufacturer.

In Florida, a plaintiff can pursue a dangerous product claim against a product manufacturer or distributor under the strict liability theory of negligence. Strict liability only applies in Florida if the dangerous product was being used as intended by the manufacturer. Because the woman was using the duster to “get high,” and not to clean a keyboard, the trial court rejected the plaintiff’s claims against Walmart and the product manufacturer. The plaintiff appealed the trial court ruling to the Florida Court of Appeal, where the judgment was upheld. The high court reiterated that strict liability for defective products only applies in situations where a person was using the product as intended by the manufacturer. Because the woman was not using the product as intended, the plaintiff was not entitled to any relief from the manufacturer or retailer of the product.

Pursuing a Florida Dangerous Product Claim

Although this recent ruling denied a plaintiff’s proposed use of the strict liability doctrine in Florida, the doctrine is still alive and well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed while using a dangerous consumer product, you may be entitled to relief. Even if it seems that the product was misused or the accident was somehow the victim’s fault, there still may be a claim. If you have questions about a possible claim, the experienced Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank want to help. Our dedicated Florida personal injury lawyers understand how to get courts in this state to understand accident victims. We accept clients in many Florida injury cases, including claims concerning dangerous and defective products. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.



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