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Loss of Alleged Defective Product Does Not Defeat Product Liability Claim
Description Injured consumer's key evidence, the product part that failed, was lost when shipped to attorney. Appeals court held that case could proceed as there was no claim that product in question was any different from the rest made by defendant, since photos existed, and there were witnesses to the condition of the part in question.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability, Loss of Evidence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Letterman bought a tree stand for hunting; he had used it about 15 or 20 times over three years when the turnbuckle, a device critical in securing the stand to a tree, broke, causing Letterman to be injured when he fell from the stand. The turnbuckle was apparently lost when Letterman shipped the device to his attorney. Manufacturer contended that Letterman fell because he misused the product and that Letterman cannot establish his case without the critical evidence. Trial court refused to dismiss the case, holding that Letterman's product was the same as thousands of others sold; there was no claim that it suffered from a peculiar defect. Producer appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "The trial court was authorized to find that even without the lost turnbuckle, plaintiffs can make a prima facie showing that its condition when sold was the proximate cause of Letterman's injury" and that the producer's defense has not been irreparably prejudiced. There were photos of the turnbuckle and it had been examined by several persons who could testify as to its condition.
Citation Chicago Hardware and Fixture Co. v. Letterman, --S.E.2d-- (1999 WL 8319, Ct. App., Ga.)
510 S.E.2d 875 (Ct. App., Ga., 1999)

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