Readers of this blog may already know that companies who make and sell products have a duty to ensure that the products are safe for their intended use. In Farias v. Mr. Heater, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals explains that these companies also have a duty to warn users of any potential danger inherent in using the product.
Plaintiff Lilybet Farias sued Defendants Mr. Heater and Home Depot alleging that the companies failed to warn her about the dangers associated with using two propane-powered portable heaters made by Mr. Heater and which she bought at Home Depot. Plaintiff's home caught fire and sustained significant damages one night as a result of the heaters being left on unattended.
At trial, a lower court ruled that, as a matter of law, the warnings and instructions provided with the heaters were adequate. Plaintiff then filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that this was a question for the jury, not a judge, to decide. Typically, a judge decides questions of law, while a jury resolves questions of fact. The lower court denied the motion.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit explained that "[i]t is well-established that Florida law imposes a duty to warn where a product is inherently dangerous or has dangerous propensities, unless such dangers are known or obvious." Although the adequacy of warnings is a question of fact typically left to a jury, it may be resolved by a judge as a matter of law where the warning is "accurate, clear and unambiguous." That is, the warning must make clear the possible harm that can come from using the product and "be of such intensity as to cause a reasonable man to exercise for his own safety caution commensurate with the potential danger," the court ruled.
In this case, the court found that Defendants provided sufficient warning of the dangers associated with using the heaters indoors. According to the court, a number of warning statements were printed on the outside of the heater boxes, including: "This heater is recommended for outdoor use only"; and "Propane cylinders should be located outdoors during heater operation." Furthermore, the instruction manual warned that the heaters should not be used in confined spaces and that users should not leave the heaters on while unattended or while the user is sleeping.
Accordingly, the court affirmed the lower court's decision denying Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.
As consumers, we purchase products with the implied expectation that those products will not injure us in an unpredictable way. Defective product can be anything a consumer purchases (automobile parts, medications, children's toys, child safety seats, etc.) that isn't safe for its intended use. At Anidjar & Levine, our South Florida defective products lawyers stand ready to help those injured by unsafe products. Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent clients throughout the area, including in Boca Raton, Hialeah and Pompano Beach. If you were injured by a defective product, call the Fort Lauderdale office today at (800) 747-3733 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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