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Design Defects and Notice

A design defect in a product or place may be cause for not only compensatory damages but for punitive damages.

Under appropriate circumstances, evidence of prior accidents involving a product is admissible for purposes of proving notice to the manufacturer, causation, or the existence of a dangerous or defective condition.  For such evidence to be admissible, the prior incidents must have occurred under the same or substantially similar circumstances, because in the absence of such a nexus the evidence lacks probative value.

In a case involving a finger pinch of a three-year old between a door and a hinge, I had an expert testify that the restaurant should have installed a finger guard.  A finger guard is a simple $40 piece of plastic that is applied between the hinge and the inner gap to prevent anyone from inserting a finger.  Here, I had evidence that at least 10 prior children had their fingers pinched or cut off by the hinge side closing on their fingers.  The restaurant chain had notice of such incidents, yet did nothing to protect against same. This allowed us to seek punitive or exemplary damages.