Jeld-Wen, Inc. v. Gamble by Gamble
Virginia Supreme Court
501 S.E.2d 393 (1998)
Thirteen-month-old Anthony Kent Gamble fell 10 feet to the ground from a second-story window when a mesh screen gave way as he waved goodbye to his mother, who was outside. Anthony lightly touched the screen, and it fell away from the window, causing Anthony to fall out and suffer permanent injuries. One of the spring-loaded pins securing the screen to the bottom of the window frame contained a manufacturing defect. The pin and the groove into which it fit into on the windowsill were defective. The pin could not hold the screen in place absent pressure from outside the window. This created an insecure false latch. Anthony’s mother and next friend, LaDonna Gamble (Anthony’s mother) (plaintiff), sued Jeld-Wen, Inc. (defendant), the manufacturer of the screen and window, as well as several other parties, raising claims of negligence and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. All parties but Jeld-Wen settled with Anthony’s mother out of court. At trial, Anthony’s mother conceded the purposes of the mesh screen were limited to keeping bugs out and allowing light and fresh air in. Anthony’s mother also conceded the ordinary purpose of the screen was not to serve as a child restraint. Anthony’s mother argued that evidence showed that Jeld-Wen knew or should have known about the screen’s false-latch defect and that Jeld-Wen should have foreseen the chance of an accident such as Anthony’s occurring. The trial court jury awarded Anthony’s mother $15 million in damages. Jeld-Wen appealed, arguing it owed no legal duty toward Anthony because the use of Jeld-Wen’s screen as a child-restraint constituted product misuse.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Koontz, J.)
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