Lovelace v. Astra Trading Corp.

439 F. Supp. 753 (1977)

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Lovelace v. Astra Trading Corp.

United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi
439 F. Supp. 753 (1977)

JC

Facts

In 1973, Edwina Lovelace bought a hair dryer, primarily for her son, Terry. On February 10, 1974, while the Lovelace family was at church, the family’s home was severely damaged by fire. John Lovelace, Jr. (plaintiff), Edwina’s husband, filed suit, alleging that the fire occurred due to the defective nature of the hair dryer, which was plugged in, though not in use, at the time of the fire. Only 18 days after the fire, John was also diagnosed with high blood pressure, which required open heart surgery and a coronary bypass. John was ultimately rendered totally and permanently disabled, and John also claimed that the disability was a direct result of the fire. Astra Trading Corporation (defendant) imported merchandise primarily from the Far East. The hair dryer in question was provided by Chaun Ching Co. but was actually manufactured by another corporation, which was based in Taiwan. The path to sale for these hair dryers was that Astra sent Chaun Ching the design and specifications for the hair dryers with production samples provided, and the products were ultimately imported in individual boxes, with each dryer prominently displaying the name “Stellar,” which was a trademark of Astra. Astra indicated that it performed random sample checks on the products but in no way altered or enhanced the products. John sued on negligence and strict-liability theories of liability. Astra argued that the plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed because (1) the plaintiff was not a user or consumer of the product, so strict liability must be inapplicable, and (2) the defendant did not produce the product and must be under no duty to inspect the products for latent defects. John argued for the extension of strict liability to bystanders and users or consumers, which was a matter of first impression in Mississippi law, and also argued that the Stellar marking and the control exerted by Astra over the dryers would attach liability. Astra moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied, and Astra then appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Russell, J.)

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