Archive for the ‘Products Liability’ Category

No Sympathy – Claims of Injured Passenger in Go Kart Barred by Assumption of Risk; No Product Defect (NY)

October 22, 2015

Garnett v. Strike Holdings, LLC (New York)

The plaintiff rode as a passenger in a two-seat go kart driven by her then boyfriend.  While driving on the track, they were allegedly bumped twice by other go karts, allegedly causing the plaintiff to suffer injuries, including “reflex sympathy dystrophy.”  Plaintiff sued the operators of the indoor recreational facility, alleging negligent and defective design, strict products liability, failure to warn, and breach of warranty.

The defendants filed a motion to strike the products liability claim.  However, the trial court denied the motion finding (1) that [the operators] leasing and rental of the go-karts could support the inference that [the operators] had placed the go-karts within the distributive chain,” and (2) the operators’ “waiver form purporting to contain an “express assumption of risk, waiver indemnity and agreement not to sue” was void as against public policy and unenforceable by reason of” New York General Obligations Law Section 5-326.  The parties proceeded with discovery.

(more…)

Maintenance Mystery – Gross Negligence is an Issue of Fact for Jury in Fitness Club Equipment Case (CA)

August 7, 2015

Chavez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (California)

Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury when the back panel of a “FreeMotion cable crossover machine struck her in the head at the defendant’s workout facility.  Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging claims for ordinary and gross negligence and strict product liability.  The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing (1) the written release of liability in its membership application was a complete defense to the negligence claims, (2) it could not be liable under a products liability claim because it was a service provide and it was not in the chain of commerce, and (3) the plaintiff could not reasonably demonstrate an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care or a failure to exercise scant care which was required to state a claim for gross negligence because the defendant’s technician routinely inspected the equipment and performed preventative maintenance on it.

Plaintiff opposed the motion, and, in the alternative, sought a continuance of the motion based on the fact that the defendant claimed that it was unable to produce the maintenance technician for deposition because he was not longer employed by defendant and he could not be found.  The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to continue, noting that the maintenance technician had been identified many months before the defendant filed its motion for summary judgment, but plaintiff elected not to subpoena him until after it received the motion.  The trial court then granted the defendant’s motion finding (1) the primary purpose of the membership agreement was the provision of fitness services such that defendant could not be held strictly responsible under the products liability claim, (2) the ordinary negligence and premises liability claims were barred by the release of liability in the membership agreement, and (3) the defendant had met its burden to show it was not grossly negligent by establishing “it had a system of preventative and responsive maintenance of its equipment.”  Plaintiff appealed the trial court decision, but only as to the ruling on its motion to continue and as to the gross negligence claim. (more…)

Blanked Out – Injured Motocross Rider’s Claims Barred By Assumption of Risk (CA)

July 6, 2015

Storer v. E Street MX, Inc. (California)
(not a published opinion)

The plaintiff was injured while riding his motorcycle on a motocross track operated by the defendants.  After completing two or three laps on the track, the plaintiff “blanked out” and did not recall the incident.  He claimed something hit him, but he did not know what it was.  He filed an action against the defendants for negligence and premises liability.  The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment based upon both primary assumption of risk and the waiver and release document that the plaintiff signed prior to his participation in the motocross activities, and plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff sough to add a new cause of for products liability and also sought to add additional negligence claims relating to defective design, construction, and maintenance of the racetrack, along with a failure to warn him of those defects.   The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion, ruling that the proposed amendment was “prejudicially late” and that it sought to add a “patently frivolous” cause of action for products liability.  Plaintiff had also requested delaying the defendants motion, but the court denied the request.  Thereafter, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion, and the plaintiff appealed. (more…)

Wild Ride – Paraplegic Injured on Roller Coaster Loses Jury Verdict (CA)

July 2, 2015

Rogers v. Magic Mountain, LLC (California)

Plaintiff was involved in an accident in 1996, which caused him to suffer from paraplegia and related medical complications.  In 2010, he rode the X2 “4th Dimension” roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, an amusement park in Valencia, California.  While on the ride, plaintiff suffered a fracture to his right femur.  Plaintiff did not feel the injury as a result of his paraplegia.  A few days later, his right leg was amputated after blood clotting blocked the flow of blood to his leg.  Plaintiff sued the amusement park and the ride manufacturer, alleging premises liability, general negligence and products liability.

The amusement park filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court.  The case continued, and a ten day jury trial ensued.  After trial, the jury issued a special verdict, finding that the amusement park was negligent, but that its negligence was not a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff.  As to the ride manufacturer, the jury found that (1) the ride did not have potential risks that were known at the time of their design, manufacture and sale that would support a failure to warn claim, and (2) the design of the ride was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff, but that the risks of the ride did not outweigh the benefits of the design.  Therefore, the jury found that neither defendant had legal responsibility for the harm caused to the plaintiff.

Plaintiff appealed the decision contending that the special verdict was defective and the evidence was insufficient to support the special verdict.  However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.  The Court noted that the plaintiff had not objected to the special verdict or any of its stipulated changes.  Regardless, the Court did not find any inconsistency, ambiguity, or unresolved issue in the special verdict.  Plaintiff complained that the jury had improperly allocated 100% fault to the plaintiff without first finding that the plaintiff was negligent.  However, the Court explained that the specific allocation of fault to the plaintiff was merely an “irregularity,” and not an “inconsistency.”  The jury had already determined that neither defendant’s was responsible (the park’s negligence did not cause the harm and the risk of the manufacturer’s design did not outweigh its benefits).  As a result, the Court noted that “it [did] not matter whether plaintiff was negligent or not — he [could not] recover from defendants.”  According to the Court, “the issues of negligence and causation were properly presented to the jury in the special verdict form.”  The Court was also convinced that “there was ample evidence from which the jury could properly conclude that [manufacturer] was unaware of potential risks at the time the X2 vehicles were designed.”

Fender Bender – Claims of Injured “Cyber Sport” Participant Dismissed (NY)

June 5, 2015

Yargeau v. Lasertron (New York)

Plaintiff was injured while participating in a game called Cyber Sport.  In Cyber Sport, participants drive cars similar to bumper cars while they attempt to scoop a ball into a handheld basket and then shoot the ball to score points.  A participant uses a joystick to move the car, but there are no brakes on the cars.  The cars are built to stop moving when the joystick is released or when a signal is sent to the car by an employee of the facility hosting the game.  After riding in her car during a warm up period, the plaintiff was sitting in her car listening to the referee give instructions to the players.  Although the referee had pressed the button that was supposed to give a signal causing all the cars to stop, at least one of the cars still had power and ended up striking plaintiff’s car from behind and causing her personal injury.

Plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the car and the facility hosting the game, alleging products liability claims and negligence.  The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which were granted by the trial court, and the plaintiff appealed. (more…)

Bite Worse Than the Bark – Whether Adopter of Dog Reasonably Relied on Representation of Shelter is a Jury Issue (NY)

June 2, 2015

 

Lawrence v. North Country Animal Control Center, Inc. (New York)

Plaintiffs adopted a basset hound named Brutus from the defendant facility, a not-for-profit animal shelter.  Less than a month later, the dog attacked one of plaintiffs’ other dogs.  One of the plaintiffs was able to separate the animals, but Brutus attacked the plaintiff during the altercation, causing severe injuries to both of his arms.  An employee of the defendant facility removed the dog from the plaintiffs’ home on the same day.  The defendant facility thereafter refused to return the dog to the plaintiffs and sent the dog to a rescue organization out of state.  Plaintiffs tracked down Brutus’ prior owner, who claimed that about a month prior to the adoption, Brutus had been turned over to the defendant facility “to be euthanized because he had attacked the owner and her child.”

Plaintiffs filed an action against the defendant facility and its employee, alleging causes of action for, among other things, negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, products liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, and plaintiffs cross-moved to amend the complaint and for summary judgment on their claim for intentional spoliation (the defendant facility did not produce Brutus and did not know its current whereabouts).  The trial court granted the cross-motion to amend, denied plaintiffs’ cross motion for summary judgment, and treated the claim for spoliation as a request for sanctions.  However, the trial court ruled (without prejudice to raise the issue again upon completion of discovery) that it was not imposing sanctions in connection with the defendants failure to produce the dog.  The trial court further partially granted the defendants’ motion, dismissing the products liability claim and one other cause of action.  The plaintiffs and defendants both appealed. (more…)

Legal Workout – Fitness Club Defends Negligence, Gross Negligence, Products Claims (CA)

March 23, 2015

24 hour fitness logoGrebing v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (California)

In 2012, a member of a 24 Hour Fitness facility in La Mirada, California was injured while using a “low row” machine during a workout.  The clip holding the weight on the machine failed, causing the machine’s handlebar to strike the plaintiff in the forehead and allegedly causinghead, back, and neck injuries.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the fitness facility for (1) negligence, (2) negligent products liability, (3) strict products liability, and (4) breach of implied warranty of merchantability.
(more…)

Unfortunate Landing

September 6, 2012

Duchesneau v. Cornell University (Pennsylvania Court – New York Law Applied)
(An amateur gymnast suffered a significant injury while attempting a backflip on a rebounding Tumbl Trak apparatus; he sued the manufacturer of the apparatus for a failure to warn of the dangers associated with its use, and he sought punitive damages; the court denied the manufacturer’s motion, allowing the case to proceed to the jury.)

In its motion, the defendant manufacturer alleged (1) plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of failure to warn; (2) plaintiff was not entitled to punitive damages; and (3) plaintiff assumed the risk of injury when using the apparatus.  In support of its arguments, the manufacturer referred to “general knowledge” that “an individual might land on his head if he attempt[ed] a black flip on a rebounding [apparatus].”  Defendant also referred to plaintiff’s education in basic physics, the fact that he signed a waiver that stated that he understood the risks and dangers associated with gymnastics, the existence of a small warning label on the apparatus that warned of the potential for catastrophic injury (including paralysis or even death from falling on the head or neck), and plaintiff’s knowledge of the concept of spotting from his prior participation in cheerleading.  Viewing all of that evidence, defendant asserted that “‘common sense’ would have informed an individual that he or she was risking landing on their head by using the [apparatus], and, as such, [defendant] had no legal duty to warn Plaintiff.”

(more…)

The Shaft

August 29, 2012

Nesbitt v. NMCA, et. al (Illinois – pending)
(A drag racer injured when a driveshaft broker and entered the cockpit is suing multiple parties, including the racing association, the sanctioning body, and the chassis manufacturer.)

CompetitionPlus.com recently posted a story here about the lawsuit filed in Cook County Court.  The article includes an initial response from the National Muscle Car Association (“NMCA”).  The NMCA is not surprised about the lawsuit considering the current state of the judicial system and is very confident in its ability to defend the claim, particularly in light of the waiver and release agreement signed by Nesbitt prior to participation.

NOTE: Legal claims that arise out of these types of incidents that appear to derive from nothing more than the risks inherent in a dangerous sporting activity like motorsports are obviously a significant reason for inconsistency and high cost associated with sports insurance products.

Little League Lawsuit Settlement

August 23, 2012

$14.5 Million Settlement for Injured Minor (New Jersey)
(A 12 year old pitcher playing in a youth baseball game was struck in the chest by a ball projected from a metal bat; his family’s lawsuit against the bat manufacturer, Little League Baseball, and the Sports Authority sporting goods chain was settled.)

As reported here on ESPN.com, the terms of the settlement agreement preclude the parties from discussing its details, including whether any of the defendants admitted liability.  It appears that the issue revolved around whether the metal bat used at the time of the incident was appropriate and safe.  Little League Baseball certifies certain bats for approved use in games involving children.  The injured boy encountered cardiac arrest that led to permanent brain damage, and the settlement will help provide long term care for him for the rest of his life.