Alabama residents have the right to expect a product to be safe when it is used for the purpose for which it is designed to be used. When consumers buy a ladder, they generally expect the ladder to be designed with supports to keep it from collapsing when properly used. Similarly, the consumer expects the product to withstand a certain amount of weight. The consumer may expect the ladder to have instructions detailing the maximum load the ladder can safely withstand. The concepts apply to all sorts of products.
Generally, Huntsville residents and individuals in any part of the state may be aware of concept of products liability. But, the intricacies of Alabama defective products cases are not common fodder at dinner parties. Three separate concepts may come into play in a products case, defective manufacture, defective design and failure to war. Two of the three were recently resolved out west in a case involving an aluminum baseball bat.
The events began during an American Legion baseball game in 2003. A line drive struck the pitcher in the game in the temple. The young man died from the head trauma. The man's family later sued the manufacturer of the baseball bat for wrongful death based upon claims that the bat was a defective product. The case went through a jury trial and subsequently wound its way up to the Montana Supreme Court. Obviously, the case is merely illustrative in Alabama as it does not involve our laws.
The family claimed the bat manufacturer was negligent in designing the aluminum bat, due to the danger the bat posed because a batted ball leaves the bat at a higher velocity than other wooden bats. The family also argued that the manufacturer failed to properly warn consumers of the increased risk the bat posed when used properly during a baseball game.
The family presented evidence to the jury on both claims, including analysis of experts. The jury ultimately disagreed that any design defect was involved in the fatal baseball accident. However, the jury awarded damages to the family after finding the manufacturer failed to properly warns consumers about the increased risk the bat posed when the bat was used properly.
The evidence showed expert analysis that the increased velocity of a batted ball significantly reduced the available reaction time after a ball was hit and subjected the player to an increased risk of injury. The jury found the bat company liable for failing to properly warn of the increased risk.
That state's highest court recently upheld the jury's finding of liability. The court said, "The realities of the game of baseball support the District Court's decision to submit [the victim's] failure to warn claim to the jury. The bat is an indispensible part of the game. The risk of harm accompanying the bat's use extends beyond the player who holds the bat in his or her hands." The court found the failure to warn applied to the pitcher because the player was within the "zone of danger" of the bat.
Source: Independent Record, "Supreme Court upholds metal bat case," Angela Brandt 22 Jul 2011