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Breaking Legal Developments


Published by:
Peter A. Lynch, Esq.
of Cozen O'Connor


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. Fifth Circuit Finds Lighter Defective Design Case Could Proceed


In Flock v. Scripto-Tokai Corp., No. 02-20098 (February 03,2003), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence on defective design of a lighter to permit the fire case to proceed to trial. The district court had granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Shonda and Brandon Flock died in a fire. Apparently Brandon played with a lighter in his bedroom. The investigators found a metal tip of an Aim 'n Flame lighter in that room. The arm of the device was melted making it impossible to determine when it was manufactured. Scripto-Tokai was sued for damages for product liability, negligence and other causes of action. The district granted summary judgment holding there was no causation between the defect and the fire.

The Fifth Circuit rejected the defense argument that because matches and other lighters were found in other areas that required the motion to be granted. The only item found in the area of origin was the defendant's lighter. Hence, that fact and other factors required that argument to be rejected.

The court noted there was evidence that suggested the lighter in question did not have a child resistant feature. The lighter in question was not redesigned until 1999 with the child resistant model. According to expert testimony, a four year old child does not have the motor or cognitive capacity to master the specific, sequential motor tasks required to ignite the child resistant model and would abandon the Aim 'n Flame after several minutes, thus preventing child play fires. The court directed the judgment to be reversed and the matter returned to the district court for further proceedings.

Mr. Lynch can be reached at Cozen and O'Connor, 501 West Broadway, Suite 1610, San Diego, California 92101, 800-782-3366 (voice), 619-234-7831 (fax), (e-mail), Follow us on Twitter at @firesandrain.

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