Product Liability Suit Against Massachusetts Tubing Maker Fails for Lack of Standing – Kerin v. Titeflex Corporation

There are several potential theories of liability in product liability actions, including failure to warn, design defect, and breach of warranty, to name a few. An experienced product liability attorney often asserts multiple causes of action, knowing that, as the case progresses, some of the theories may prove to be more successful that others. Of course, whatever the theory, the plaintiff must have standing in order to proceed with his or her case.

In the case of Kerin v. Titeflex Corporation, the plaintiff was a homeowner who had certain corrugated stainless steel tubing installed on his property to provide gas for his outdoor fire pit. He brought a federal class action lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tubing, seeking recovery on the basis that the tubing was vulnerable to failure after lightning strikes.

He filed his suit in the District Court of Massachusetts under diversity jurisdiction, since the defendant manufacturer is located in Massachusetts. His complaint asserted four causes of action:  negligent failure to warn, strict liability failure to warn, negligent design/failure to test, and strict liability for defects in design and manufacturing. It is important to note that the plaintiff did not allege that his home’s purported vulnerability to lightning had resulted in any actual harm, Instead, he sought damages for his overpayment for the product and for the cost of remedying the safety issue caused by the tubing’s vulnerability to lightning. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit for lack of standing, stating that his injury was too speculative for the case to proceed further.

What the Court Said on Appeal

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint for lack of standing. The court made it clear that it was not saying that an increased risk of harm from product vulnerability to lightning strikes could never give rise to standing, but rather that the plaintiff in the case at issue had failed to allege either facts sufficient to assess the probability of future injury or instances of actual damage where the cause was clear. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff conceded that the tubing met the regulatory standards that addressed the risk at issue.

The Court’s Reasoning

The court found that the plaintiff’s allegations that the piping was defective and presented an unreasonable risk were conclusory and subjective and that he had failed to adequately allege either facts sufficient to assess the likelihood of future injury or instances of any actual damage where the cause was clear. In short, since the alleged risk of harm was too speculative to give rise to a case or controversy, the plaintiff lacked standing to bring suit against the manufacturer, and thus the trial court properly dismissed the action.

If You Have Been Hurt by a Dangerous Product

At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, we understand the disappointment, frustration, and even anger that can arise when a product fails and an innocent person is injured as a result. We handle a variety of product liability and other injury cases, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss the particulars of your case with you. To reach us for an appointment in Hyannis or Plymouth, dial (888) 262-6664 or contact us online. If you need us to meet with  you at home or in the hospital because you are unable to come into the office, we will gladly do so.

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