Appellate Court Determines Plaintiffs’ Evidentiary Objection Below “Speculative” on Final Outcome, Affirms Defense Verdict

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court in California affirmed a lower court’s decision in a product liability case involving an allegedly defective door-knob guard that the plaintiffs claimed was responsible for their young son’s death. In the case, Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, the court determined that even if the plaintiffs were correct, and the challenged evidence should not have been submitted to the jury, the effect of including the evidence had only a speculative effect, and reversal was not therefore required.

Open DoorThe Facts of the Case

The defendant manufactured a door-knob cover marketed to parents of young children who are tall enough to reach door knobs but may not know better than to open the door and walk out of the house. On the day in question, the plaintiffs placed the defendant’s door-knob cover on the front door of their home and placed their young son in bed in his crib. Evidently, the young boy escaped his crib, approached the front door, negotiated the door knob cover, and then walked out the front door of the house. Tragically, the boy was later found dead in a pond.

The parents of the boy filed a product liability case against the manufacturer of the cover, alleging that the product was defective. At trial, the defendant presented evidence that the parents knew their son had been able to negotiate the cover, and they had installed a chain lock on the door as well. However, on the day in question, the plaintiffs failed to use the chain lock.

The plaintiffs objected to this testimony, arguing that it was not relevant, but the trial judge allowed the jury to hear it. After trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the evidentiary error in allowing the jury to consider this evidence should result in a new trial.

The Court’s Opinion

The court disagreed with the plaintiffs and affirmed the verdict. The court explained that, even if the evidence was objectionable and should not have been considered by the jury, there is no evidence that the jury relied on that evidence in arriving at its ultimate conclusion. In other words, it was mere “speculation” that the evidence had an effect on the trial. Since the law requires more than speculation to overturn a jury’s verdict, the court upheld the defense verdict.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by any kind of dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. Depending on the facts of the case and the type of product, there are various standards that may apply to your case. Discussing your case with a skilled attorney is a good first step to pursing compensation. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a skilled personal advocate who can discuss the facts of your case free of charge.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds “Public Duty” Doctrine Applies, Preventing Government Liability in Boating Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 12, 2016.

Court Finds Deceased Skateboarder Assumed the Risk of Injury, Preventing Family from Seeking Compensation, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 15, 2016.

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