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Massachusetts Barn Owner’s Products Liability Suit for Defective Drill Fails Due to Lack of Proof as to Identity of Product or Specific Defect – Williams v. Techtronic Industries of North America, Inc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs evidenced by the steady stream of product recalls these days, there are a great many products on the market that have the potential to harm us. Products liability laws exist to protect those who are hurt by unreasonably dangerous or defective products. Unfortunately, asserting a claim for products liability against the maker, seller, or distributor of an allegedly dangerous product can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Defendants fight hard against a finding of liability. There are several reasons for this, including potential damage to the reputation of the company, fear of additional lawsuits from other consumers, and, of course, a concern that a large verdict could affect the business’s bottom line. If there is any weakness in a claimant’s case, the defendant will seize the opportunity for a dismissal.

The Facts as Alleged by the Plaintiff

In the case of Williams v. Techtronic Industries of North America, Inc., a plaintiff claimed that his barn was destroyed by a fire caused by a defective cordless drill, battery, and charger. He filed suit against the maker of the products, as well as the store (Home Depot) where he allegedly purchased the items. He filed suit in federal court, asserting claims under Massachusetts law for negligence and a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.

The Proceedings in Federal District Court

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiff had not provided specific, admissible evidence identifying the type of drill, battery, and charger involved in the fire, nor had he shown that the products were defective in any particular way. The district court agreed with the defendants and granted them summary judgment. In so holding, the district court noted that the plaintiff had failed to provide any expert testimony to the effect that a defect in the products at issue had caused the fire that destroyed his barn.

On Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals

The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. According to the court, the plaintiff had shown no reason to overturn the district court’s decision. With regard to the plaintiff’s argument that he should have been additional time to prove his case under Federal R. Civ. Proc. 56(d), the appellate court found that the plaintiff had failed to make anything more than “speculative assertions” that additional discovery would have influenced the outcome of the defendants’ summary judgment motions. Since the plaintiff had made only an inadequate “bald assertion” concerning the propriety of additional discovery, the district court did not err in failing to defer a ruling on the summary judgment issue.

To Have an Experienced Cape Cod Products Liability Attorney Review Your Claim

If you believe that you or a family member may have been hurt by a defective or dangerous product, you should speak to an attorney about your case. The Law Office of John C. Manoog, III has many years of experience in the field of products liability law, and we will be glad to discuss your case with you at no charge. For an appointment, call 888-262-6664. We have offices in Plymouth and Hyannis, and we welcome clients throughout the state of Massachusetts.

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