Todd Rigby, Shawn Petri Defeat Defective Adapter Suit

Phoenix Partner Todd Rigby and Associate Shawn Petri recently obtained a defense verdict in an arbitration hearing over a notebook computer adapter that allegedly burned and scarred a consumer after she fell asleep with the device.

The plaintiff, a young woman, claimed that she suffered permanent scarring to her leg as a result of the incident and sought six figures as well as punitive damages. After two years of battling liability and damage claims, we were successful in significantly reducing the claim value, resulting in the transfer of the suit from federal court to the state court arbitration calendar.

Throughout the litigation, the plaintiff focused on the colloquial term “laptop” and argued that it was foreseeable that a consumer would operate a notebook computer in various locations, including in bed. We argued that the notebook adapter was not defective, that testing demonstrated the temperature of the device never exceeded safety standards or manufacturer specifications, and that our client had provided written warnings against allowing the adapter to come into extended contact with the skin. Additionally, we obtained concessions from the plaintiff that she had experience with this specific adapter becoming “hot to the touch” before the subject incident and that she had a working knowledge that electronic devices should be operated on hard, flat surfaces as opposed to bedding.

After a seven-hour arbitration hearing, we convinced the arbitrator that the notebook adapter was not defective and, given the plaintiff’s prior knowledge about this adapter, that she acted unreasonably in choosing to fall asleep with the device in her bed. The arbitrator ruled in our favor and awarded us taxable costs of defense, including expert fees.

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