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Plaintiff Loses Appeal in Product Liability Case Based on “Speculative” Effect of Questionable Evidence

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case, holding that a new trial was not warranted because any questionable evidence that was admitted by the trial judge had only a speculative effect on the jury’s verdict. In the case, Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group, the court skipped analyzing whether the evidence at issue should have been admitted, and it focused only on the effect that it had on the jury. Since the court determined that the plaintiff failed to prove that the jury relied on the evidence in question, the court held that even if the evidence were improperly admitted, a new trial was not warranted.

The Tragic Facts of the Case

The Coterels were given a door-knob guard manufactured by the defendant as a gift. The guard was designed to prevent young children from unlocking doors and getting out of a home unsupervised. On the day in question, the Coterel’s young son successfully negotiated the door-knob guard, escaped from the home, and drowned in a nearby pond. The Coterels filed a product liability case against the defendant manufacturer, alleging that the defendant’s dangerous product caused their son’s death.

At trial, the defendant manufacturer wanted to provide the court with evidence that the Coterels knew that their son had successfully disengaged the door-knob guard in the past. The defendants also had evidence that the parents normally locked the deadbolt in addition to using the door-knob guard, but on the day in question they forgot to lock the deadbolt. This evidence was obtained in post-incident interviews with the Coterels that were unrelated to the personal injury lawsuit.

The Coterels claimed that this evidence was not admissible, arguing that it was not relevant and was extremely prejudicial. However, the trial court disagreed and allowed the evidence to be considered by the jury. After the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense. The Coterels appealed.

On appeal, the court dodged the question of whether the evidence was admissible. Instead, the court focused on the effect the evidence had on the jury’s decision. Since it was the plaintiff’s appeal, it was their duty to provide some proof to show that the jury relied on the questioned evidence. However, the Coterels had no such evidence. Therefore, the court refused to grant a new trial, holding that any effect the questioned evidence had on the decision was merely speculative.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product in South Florida?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to a dangerous or poorly designed product, you may be eligible for monetary compensation through a product liability lawsuit. The South Florida product liability attorneys at Cecere Santana have decades of collective experience representing clients who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of a dangerous product. To set up a free consultation with an attorney from Cecere Santana today, call 800-753-5529. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Rules for Defendant in Boating Accident Case, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 21, 2016.

Topamax Birth Injury Case Results in $3 Million Verdict, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 9, 2016.