Friday, May 8, 2009

Law firm is found liable for injuries to client who fell off a chair

An affiliate of ABC news is reporting today (story here) that a jury in Palm Beach County jury awarded more than $2 million to a plaintiff who suffered an injury when he fell off a chair in a law firm. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against the store that sold the chair to the law firm and the law firm where the accident happened. Ironically, the plaintiff was visiting the law firm to discuss filing a possible claim for injuries suffered in a car accident. Expert witnesses testified that the chair was defectively manufactured, but they couldn't determine where it was made or what company made it. After two days of deliberations, the jury found the law firm 32.5 percent at fault and Brandon Home Furnishings 67.5 percent at fault. The ABC story says the law firm issued the following statement in response to the faulty-furniture verdict: "The man sat in a defective chair. The manufacturer should have been responsible for it entirely." That statement either shows a complete misunderstanding about the reason for which the law firm was found liable or, totally the opposite, a totally correct assessment of the situation that should result in a reversal. Here's why: the law firm could not have been found liable in a product liability claim. The firm is simply not a seller of the product which means that the claim against it must have been for its negligence in failing to notice the chair was broken or, knowing it was broken, for failiing to replace it, or something like that. In other words, if the firm is liable there must have been some evidence of negligence on its part. If so, the statement by the firm makes no sense. The firm was not liable for the defect in the product. The firm was liable for its negligent conduct, whatever it was. On the other hand, if there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the firm, then its statement makes perfect sense, it simply cannot be liable for a defective product because it is not a seller in the business of selling chairs.

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