Manufacturer Escapes Liability in Product Liability Lawsuit Based on “Optional Equipment Doctrine”

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of merchandise all have a duty to ensure the goods in which they are dealing meet certain safety standards. If a dangerously made product, or a malfunctioning product, causes an injury to a buyer, that person may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a product liability lawsuit.

Old MowerProduct liability lawsuits vary in terms of what must be proven. However, the essence of all product liability claims is the same; a dangerous product caused an injury to someone. As is the case with most other theories of liability, there are some defenses to a product liability lawsuit of which plaintiffs should be aware. In a recent case in front of a federal appeals court, the “optional equipment doctrine” was discussed, adopted, and applied.

The Optional Equipment Doctrine

In the case, Parks v. Ariens, the court determined that a lawnmower manufacturer was not liable under a product liability theory when it sold a ride-on lawnmower without a roll-cage or seatbelt. The plaintiff in the case was the surviving spouse of a man who had died when the lawnmower he purchased rolled and trapped him underneath. The man’s widow filed a product liability lawsuit against the lawnmower manufacturer, arguing that it should be responsible for her husband’s death because it was negligent to sell the lawnmower without the roll-cage or seatbelt.

The manufacturer argued that it provided the plaintiff’s husband with an opportunity to purchase the roll-cage and seatbelt as optional equipment at an additional cost. The company argued that it permissibly put the decision of whether or not such safety equipment was necessary in the hands of the person who would be using the lawnmower, and it was not negligent to do so.

The court hearing the case agreed with the defendant under these facts. The court explained that the lawnmower would be perfectly safe if operated on flat ground. However, the roll-cage and seatbelt system may be necessary for some users who use the mower on sloped surfaces. In the end, the court was fine allowing the buyer to make the decision as to whether or not the optional equipment was necessary for his own intended use. As a result, the plaintiff will not be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer that sold her husband the lawnmower.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while using any kind of dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Product liability lawsuits can be complex and may involve numerous parties, so involving an experienced attorney is highly recommended. The skilled Virginia personal injury lawyers at Charles B. Roberts & Associates have the experience and dedication necessary to handle any kind of product liability case, regardless of the type of product or severity of the injuries. Call 703-491-7070 today to set up a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Declines to Extend Government Liability in Fatal Motorcycle Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 13, 2016.

Court Determines Parking Lot Placed Across Dangerous Street May Give Rise to Landowner Liability, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, August 4, 2016.