1. Failure to Warn
2. Defective Design
3. Manufacturing Defect
The Chicago Tribune reports that the parents of a toddler have filed suit against the manufacturer of their baby dresser for a product defect and for failure to warn about the dangers of their dresser when it tipped over and killed their 2 year old son. Their case seems to allege both a failure to warn as well as defective design of the furniture.
Second, they allege that the manufacturer failed to even warn about the potential hazards that a top heavy, unbalanced dresser could pose. This is where most skeptics of the civil justice system cringe. It may seem obvious to most that furniture that could be top heavy could therefore tip over. It seems obvious that babies could easily be harmed by such a calamity. The problem is that if it is so obvious then skeptics wonder (loudly) why a manufacturer should be penalized for not warning about something everyone knows or should realize without a warning.
The response most product liability attorneys come up with is that everyone deserves a clear warning as to the risks of a product for both known uses, but also foreseeable misuses of a product. The perfect example is from the popcorn lung case I wrote about earlier. There a consumer ate incredible amounts of microwaveable popcorn to the point where he suffered a debilitating lung condition from the butter used on the popcorn. It was foreseeable for the manufacturer that a consumer could eat enough of the product to become sick, even if that usage was far above what the manufacturer envisioned.
Here, it is entirely foreseeable that someone would overstuff the top drawer, resulting in a tip over. The fact about how the manufacturer is now offering a simple fix goes both ways in proving negligence or faulty design. The fact the simple fix exists, was industry standard, and could have prevented the injury and subsequent death will not help the manufacturer defend this case, however, their offering of the fix now may not be probative to the actual issues in this case.
Regardless, manufacturers and consumers need to consider all of their options carefully with product liability claims. Choosing the right attorney to break down these issues and present them clearly to both a judge and jury is essential to maximizing recovery for the plaintiff and minimizing exposure for the defendant. Often, especially with cases involving injuries and death to children, a settlement offers both sides the most efficient way to a resolution.