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Sharon Degnan Obtained an Affirmance of a Summary Judgment in a Products Liability Case

June 16, 2022

Sharon Degnan, of our Orlando office, obtained an affirmance of a summary judgment in a products liability case.

In Grieco v. Daiho Sangyo, Inc., et al., 4D20-2294, 4D20-2557 (Fla. 4th DCA June 15, 2022), the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment in our client’s favor in a case brought by a plaintiff against a manufacturer, distributor and retailer of a compressed gas dusting spray product intended to clean computers and other electronics, which, when misused by being inhaled, produces a short-lived high.  The plaintiff was injured when the driver-tortfeasor, who was addicted to inhaling this type of product, purchased a can from the retailer and, while driving home, got high at a red light and lost control of her vehicle, causing it to collide with the plaintiff. The plaintiff sued the retailer, the product manufacturer, and the distributor under strict liability and negligence theories based on design defect and failure to warn.

The Fourth District in a lengthy 18-page decision found that the plaintiff's claims failed on all theories. As it related to strict liability for an alleged design defect, the court held that product liability defendants are not strictly liable when a third party’s injury results from a consumer’s unintended and illegal use of a product.

The court also held that the strict liability duty to warn claims failed because the warning label on the product expressly stated that misuse through inhalation could be harmful or fatal, and that a bitterant was added to the product to discourage inhalant abuse. Even though the product label did not prevent the driver-tortfeasor from misusing the product, the court found that summary judgment was properly entered on the claim because it was sufficient to warn a reasonable consumer not to inhale it.

With regard to the common law negligence counts, the court wrote an in-depth analysis of foreseeability in the context of duty and proximate cause. It concluded that the causal link between the danger (being struck by a vehicle driving off the roadway) and the alleged misconduct (manufacturing and selling a household dust-removal product) was simply too attenuated and remote to support the existence of any duty to third parties arising from the product’s misuse.  Moreover, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the driver-tortfeasor’s reckless indifference to her own safety as well as the safety of others and not the conduct of the product liability defendants. Read more here.




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