SW Legal Educational Publishing

Injured Consumer Must Provide Evidence of Safer Alternative Design
Description Appeals court affirmed dismissal of product liability suit filed by woman whose shirt caught fire when it touched a hot stove burner. Under the risk-utility test, the plaintiff needed to give evidence of a reasonable, alternative product design that could have eliminated the risk in question.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability; Design Defect; Risk-Utility Test; Alternative Design
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Hollister was severely burned because the shirt she was wearing caught fire when it came into contact with a hot electric burner on her stove. She sued the department store where she bought the shirt for design defect under Michigan's risk-utility test. The district court dismissed the suit, ruling that Hollister failed to present evidence of a reasonable alternative design that would have reduced the risk of the type of injury she suffered, as required under the risk-utility test. Hollister appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Hollister failed to establish a prima facie case of design defect under Michigan law. She needed to provide evidence that a reasonable alternative design was available, that it was practicable, that it would have reduced the risk of the accident, and that the absence of the alternative design was the cause of her injuries. Plaintiffs must show the alternative, safer design and show that it would have been effective as a reasonable means of minimizing foreseeable risk of danger.
Citation Hollister v. Dayton-Hudson Corp., 188 F.3d 414 (6th Cir., 1999)

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