By Brian Craig, J.D.
The manufacturer owed no duty to prevent the concession window from falling on a concession stand visitor.
In a negligence case brought by a man who was struck in the head by a concession stand window at a baseball park, the Delaware Superior Court held that the manufacturer of the concession stand was not liable for failing to include a window latching mechanism because the manufacturer owed no duty to the concession stand visitor. In granting the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment, the court found that the contract between the manufacturer and the operator of the concession stand did not include a latching mechanism. Moreover, the visitor alleged that his injuries were caused by the failure of a latch that had been installed later by the operator. Thus, the injuries were not proximately caused by the manufacturer (Chambers v. Canal Athletic Association Inc., January 11, 2022, Davis, E.).
A man was volunteering at a little league baseball and softball facility when he was struck in the head by a concession stand window. He suffered significant head injuries as a result. He sued both the operator and the manufacturer of the concession stand. The operator and the manufacturer had previously entered into a contract in which the manufacturer agreed to build and install the concession stand. However, the plans did not include a window latch. When the concession stand was first delivered and built, there was no latching mechanism for the window. When the stand first opened, a wooden dowel was used to hold the window open. This mechanism was not working well, and it was later modified by the concession stand operator. In his negligence suit, the man claimed that manufacturing the concession stand without a latch made the product defective. The manufacturer moved for summary judgment.
Manufacturer’s duty. The court first concluded that the concession stand manufacturer owed no duty to prevent the concession window from falling on the visitor. Duty is measured in terms of reasonableness and is equated to the conduct of a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances. The court drew an analogy to another case involving the manufacturer of an automatic revolving door at a hotel. The plaintiff in that case was injured in an accident that occurred while he was exiting through the door. In granting summary judgment to the door manufacturer, the court noted that it is not enough for a plaintiff to establish that a product might have been made safer.
Here, the concession stand visitor argued that manufacturing the stand without a latch made the product defective. However, the court found it unreasonable to find that the manufacturer was negligent, given that the operator and the manufacturer did not contract for a latching mechanism. There also was no evidence that a latching mechanism was a necessary safety feature. In addition, the court agreed with the manufacturer that even if the manufacturer had provided a latch, the operator’s subsequent installation of the latch would be an intervening and superseding cause of the man’s injuries that would negate any tortious conduct by the manufacturer. Therefore, the manufacturer did not owe a duty to the visitor.
Causation. The court also concluded that the concession stand visitor did not establish causation to support his negligence claim. To establish negligence, a plaintiff must establish that the manufacturer caused the plaintiff’s injury. Here, the court found that the manufacturer was not liable for the alleged faultiness of a device it did not manufacture, install, or sell. The facts did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it was reasonably foreseeable that the manufacturer’s failure to provide a latch proximately caused the man’s injuries. The contract between the operator and the manufacturer provided that the stand would be delivered without a window latching mechanism, and the visitor alleged that his injuries were caused by a failure of a subsequently installed latching mechanism. Therefore, the alleged injuries were not proximately caused by the manufacturer. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the concession stand manufacturer.
The case is No. N18C-06-226 EMD.
Attorneys: Philip T. Edwards (Murphy & Landon, P.A.) and Samuel I. Reich (Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP) for Charles Chambers and Sarah Chambers. Matthew P. Donelson (Kent & McBride, P.C.) for Diamond State Pole Buildings, LLC. Thomas J. Gerard (Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin) for Canal Athletic Association Inc.
Companies: Diamond State Pole Buildings, LLC; Canal Athletic Association Inc.
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