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August 8, 2006

Infant Death Results from Ingestion of Hair Product - No Failure to Warn

The manufacturer of a hair and body moisturizer spray labeled "all natural" was not liable for failure to warn against ingestion of the product in a case in which the product was left within reach of an 11-month old child who did ingest it and subsequently died.  The Michigan Supreme Court found that a reasonable person should know of this risk and that the product manufacturer therefore had no duty to warn about it.  The bottle containing the product included an ingredients list and a warning not to use it near sparks or flame but there was no warning not to ingest the product or to keep it out of reach of children.  The court's majority concluded that the law does not require every possible injury that could result from misuse of a product to be warned against.  See Jack Kresnack's story for the Detroit Free Press.

The result is in stark contrast to the Washington Court of Appeals' 1990 decision in Ayers v. Johnson Baby Products, involving a 15-month old toddler who aspirated baby oil and suffered irreversible brain damage.  In Ayers, the child's teen-aged sister had transferred some of the oil into a small bottle which she kept in her purse.  The sister inadvertently left her purse where the toddler found it, opened the bottle and drank some of its contents.  The court reasoned that this risk was not obvious and, in the absence of a warning of the risks of aspiration, the product was defective.  The Supreme Court of Washington unanimously affirmed the decision of the court of appeals in an opinion closely tracking that of the intermediate court.

JDP

August 8, 2006 | Permalink

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