Jury Rejects Claim Against Doorknob Cover Manufacturer After Child Escapes

A 23-month-old boy tragically drowned in a pond after he climbed out of his crib and walked outside in the middle of the night. After the accident, the boy’s parents filed a product liability case against the company that manufactured the doorknob cover they had installed on their front door. The doorknob cover was a safety measure to prevent children from opening doors. The boy’s parents used the doorknob cover on the front door of their home to stop him from opening the door. However, the company argued that the doorknob cover was not defective or unreasonably dangerous if it were used properly.

DoorknobAt trial, evidence showed that after the boy began climbing out of his crib, to help ensure their son’s safety, the couple began using a chain lock on the front door in addition to the doorknob cover. On the night of the accident, the boy’s mother locked the tab lock on the doorknob but forgot to latch the chain lock. The boy was discovered the next morning, and the doorknob cover was on the floor in two pieces. Investigation notes with social services stated that the parents knew the boy was able to defeat the doorknob cover, which was why they installed the chain lock. However, the father denied making that statement.

The parents argued that evidence of their knowledge of the boy’s ability to defeat the doorknob cover should be excluded because it was irrelevant, and at most it was only a contributing cause but not the sole cause of the accident. They also argued that it was overly prejudicial. Despite their objections, the evidence was allowed at trial.

At the end of the trial, the jury found the company not liable for the boy’s death. The parents appealed the decision and argued that the evidence should not have been admitted. Yet a federal court of appeals held that even if the evidence should not have been admitted, the admission of the evidence did not prejudice the outcome of the trial. The court stated that the jury made its decision based on the requirements of a product liability claim, and the verdict should stand. Thus, the appeals court affirmed the judgment.

Relevance Under Evidence Rules in Illinois

In Illinois courts, the Illinois Rules of Evidence control which evidence may be admitted at trial. Under the Illinois Rules of Evidence, relevant evidence means evidence that has a tendency to make the existence of a consequential fact in the case more or less probable. Generally, courts will admit evidence that seems relevant, unless it is excluded under another rule.

One reason evidence may be excluded is on the basis of prejudice. That is, if the evidence’s value in the case is substantially outweighed by the risk of “unfair prejudice,” it may be excluded. Other examples of reasons for excluding relevant evidence are because of a danger of confusing or misleading the jury, because it is a waste of time, or because it is duplicative of other evidence.

Do You Have a Product Liability Claim?

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury resulting from a defective product, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer or seller. At Moll Law Group, our Chicago product liability attorneys can advise people throughout the country who have been hurt by defective products. We provide aggressive representation and thorough consumer education. We can represent injured consumers in states such as California, Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. Use our online form or call us at 312-462-1700 to set up a free consultation.

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Woman Fails to Provide Required Notice in Medical Malpractice Claim, Resulting in Dismissal, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2016.

Court Dismisses Case After Failure to Pay Filing Fee Within Statute of Limitations, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, June 25, 2016.