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September 3, 2008

Alaska Supreme Court Decides the Case of the Collapsing Law Office Chair

Burnett v. Covell.  Burnett, who weighed approximately 330 pounds, visited Covell’s law office to participate in a meeting with Covell and one of Covell’s clients.  When he attempted to sit in one of the chairs in Covell’s office, the chair collapsed.  The lack of any evidence of actual or constructive knowledge that Covell had knowledge of any defect in the chair that would cause it to collapse led to the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Covell on Burnett’s negligence claims.  The supreme court affirmed.  Burnett also claimed that Covell was liable under a products liability theory and moved for summary judgment on that issue.   The superior court denied the motion, holding that strict liability did not apply.   Not surprisingly, the supreme court affirmed, holding that strict liability theory was inapplicable.  The court noted that it has extended strict liability theory in the past, in cases involving leases rather than sales, for example, but that it has “refused to extend strict products liability beyond those who place a product into the stream of commerce.” 

September 3, 2008 | Permalink


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