The Product Safety & Liability Reporter™ provides updates on significant developments and issues in product safety and liability litigation and regulation, plus analysis from top litigators. Get...
Sept. 10 — The maker of the popular Bumbo Seat for babies and retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have defeated a suit brought on behalf of a child whose skull was fractured in an alleged fall from the product.
The child's parents had insufficient grounds to take their design-defect, failure-to-warn and negligence claims to trial, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah held Sept. 9.
And Wal-Mart qualifies as a passive retailer of the product under Utah law, saving it from strict liability claims, the court said in a decision by Judge Dee Benson.
The case arose from a June 2012 incident in which Linsey and Nicholas Groesbeck's daughter, identified as A.G., fell from a kitchen bar to the floor after being placed in a Bumbo Seat, according to the court. She sustained a skull fracture and subdural hematoma, followed by emergency surgery that involved removing part of her skull.
The parties disputed A.G.'s long-term prognosis, the court said.
The baby seat in question was made by Bumbo International Trust and related company Jonibach Pty. The seat was purchased from Wal-Mart in 2010 and incorporated changes that followed a 2007 voluntary recall—additional warnings to the seat itself and to its leaflet and packaging.
The product the Groesbecks purchased had two warnings on the box and two warnings on the seat. The parties disputed whether the box contained an instruction leaflet with more warnings.
“It is undisputed that the Groesbecks never saw or read any of the warnings that came with the Bumbo Seat until their deposition in this case,” the court said.
Bumbo and Wal-Mart sought summary judgment in their favor.
Wal-Mart argued it was a passive retailer, one that did not participate in the design, manufacture, engineering, testing or assembly of the seat.
But the Groesbecks argued that Wal-Mart had actual knowledge of falls and injuries associated with the seat and thereby lost the protection of the rule.
The court disagreed, saying there was no evidence Wal-Mart knew of any problems with the seats when the Groesbecks purchased their seat, in 2010. Wal-Mart removed the recalled seats from its inventory in 2007, and didn't learn of any new problems with the seats until 2011, the court said.
The Groesbecks' claims against Bumbo also couldn't proceed to trial, the court said. To show a design defect, they needed to show it was dangerous beyond what “the ordinary and prudent buyer, consumer or user” would contemplate.
The plaintiffs presented expert evidence about the Bumbo Seat's lack of a seat belt and about its marketing, which the expert, Dr. John E. Meyer said instilled “a false sense of security.” They also presented their own experience as an example of consumer expectations.
But it was obvious that the product lacked a seat belt, the court said. “Common sense would tell the ordinary and prudent consumer” that a baby could get out of it, the court said.
And data showed the “vast majority” of owners had either seen a warning about children getting out or had become aware of that risk themselves, the court said.
The court also found Bumbo's warnings adequate.
The Groesbecks' negligence claims also failed, the court said. With no design defect and adequate warnings, “it is unclear to the court what duty could have possibly been breached,” it said.
Attempts to reach attorneys for the parties were unsuccessful.
Bumbo and Bumbo Seat retailers have been unsuccessful or only partially successful in obtaining summary judgment in some other recent cases.
Rose Walker LLP, Cunningham Swaim LLP and Winder Counsel LLP represented the plaintiffs.
Parsons Behle & Latimer, Snow Christensen & Martineau and Brown Sims represented the defendants.
To contact the reporter on this story: Martina S. Barash in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeffrey D. Koelemay at firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Groesbeck_et_al_v_Bumbo_International_Trust_et_al_Docket_No_113cv
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)