SW Legal Educational Publishing

Product Misuse by Child Does Not Bar Design Defect Claim
Description Jury can find design defect in strict liability claim against lighter manufacturer who warned of dangers to children on product package but did not incorporate safety feature into lighter design in case where three-year-old started fire that injured another child.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability, Design Defect, Misuse
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A three-year-old child used a BIC lighter to start a fire that burned his younger brother. The lighter, bought by their mother, had warnings on the package about keeping it away from children. The guardian of the injured boy sued BIC in strict liability for design defect because known and inexpensive child restraint features had not been incorporated in the lighter. The federal district court of New Hampshire certified a question to the Supreme Court of the state if the child's guardian could maintain a cause of action in this situation.
Decision Affirmative. "Barring a determination that the utility of the product completely outweighs the risk associated with its use or that the risk of harm is so remote as to be negligible, the legal representative of a minor child injured as a result of the misuse of a product by another minor child can maintain a defective design product liability claim against the product's manufacturer, even though the product was intended to be used only by adults, when the risk that children might misuse the product was open and obvious to the product's manufacturer and its intended users."
Citation Price v. BIC Corp., Slip Copy (1997 WL 677136, Sup. Ct., NH)
702 A.2d 330 (Sup. Ct., N.H., 1997)

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