Defense Of Catastrophic Car Seat Product Liability Case

August 23, 2017

Patton & Ryan recently obtained a favorable settlement for its clients in a complex, catastrophic products liability case pending in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. The case involved numerous defendants, some located in foreign jurisdictions throughout the world.

The Plaintiff parents alleged that their seven-month-old child suffered catastrophic permanent brain damage and related neurological injuries due to a strangulation injury that occurred in an infant car seat when the mother left the child unattended while taking a shower. The case presented a unique set of facts relating to liability and damages. Plaintiffs’ theory of how the incident took place and the mechanism of injury changed throughout the course of expert discovery.

The Defendants denied liability, stating it was their position that the child’s injuries were entirely the fault of the mother’s negligent care and supervision. Despite the numerous obvious and conspicuous warnings that she testified she read, the mother left the child unattended and improperly strapped into his car seat for much longer than she testified to.

The case also involved spoliation issues relating to Plaintiffs’ alteration of the car seat itself, as well Plaintiffs’ disposal of evidence that was present at the scene of the incident. Through our defense experts, we were able to establish that Plaintiffs’ own experts altered the product and made modifications to it.

Although the child was resuscitated, he suffered catastrophic brain damage, resulting in millions of dollars of medical expenses. An interesting element to Plaintiffs’ damages claims also related to the fact that the injured child had a healthy twin brother, which Plaintiffs intended on raising at trial.

Patton & Ryan inherited this case during the discovery phase of the case which allowed us to aggressively defend the matter through written discovery and depositions prior to the expert discovery phase of the case. After the Court allowed discovery on jurisdictional matters relating to numerous dispositive motions, the Court entered an aggressive discovery schedule which required the parties to complete all inspections, written discovery, depositions and expert discovery within one year. As a result, the parties conducted approximately 32 fact witness and ten expert depositions within ten months. Due to the jurisdictional considerations of the parties, location of the evidence, and expert witness locations, these depositions took place all over the country.

This products liability case involved complex foreign jurisdictional issues and a challenging discovery schedule set by the Court. Patton & Ryan was up for the challenge and aggressively defended the case by thoroughly conducting the necessary discovery and depositions. We also filed numerous pre-trial motions, including Daubert motions relating to all of Plaintiffs’ liability and damages experts, which ultimately resulted in Patton & Ryan obtaining a favorable settlement for its clients.