Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion affirming a lower court’s granting of the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law in a product liability case surrounding an allegedly defective smoke detector. In the case, Hosford v. BRK Brands, the court ultimately held that the plaintiffs’ failure to show that a “safer, practical, alternative design” was available for the defendant to use in the manufacturing process was fatal to the plaintiffs’ claim.
The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a young girl who died when the family’s mobile home caught fire. According to the facts section of the appellate opinion, an electrical malfunction caused a slow smoldering fire to start in the family’s mobile home. The parents of the young girl were awakened when one of the two smoke detectors they had installed went off. The parents were able to safely rescue their nine-month-old son, who was sleeping in the room with them, but they were unable to rescue their nine-year-old daughter. The daughter died in the fire.
The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the smoke detector, arguing that the technology used in the unit was not effective at providing an early warning during slow smoldering fires. Under the applicable law, in order to succeed in their claim, the plaintiffs needed to prove that there was a “safer, practical, alternative design” that the defendant could have used to manufacture the smoke detector. The plaintiffs pointed to another type of technology that is available and is more effective at detecting early signs of a slow smoldering fire.
The defendant responded that the other technology, while better at detecting slow smoldering fires, was not as good at detecting a “flaming” fire and that it manufactures units using both technologies. The defendant also noted that it manufactures units with both technologies in order to detect all kinds of fires, but those units are significantly more expensive than the unit used by the plaintiffs.
The court determined that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to show that the defendant had available to it a “safer, practical, alternative design.” The court concluded that the two technologies actually constitute entirely different products, based on the different needs of consumers. Therefore, the court continued, one cannot be said to be an alternative design for the other, and the plaintiffs’ case failed.
Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a South Florida product liability lawsuit. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Cohn & Smith have decades of combined experience representing clients in all types of product liability cases, and we know what it takes to be successful in Florida courts. Call 954-431-8100 today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.
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