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Malcolm v. Evenflo Co.

Montana Supreme Court
217 P.3d 514 (2009)


Facts

A friend of Jessica Malcolm (plaintiff) gave her an “On My Way” (OMW) child safety seat prior to giving birth to her son, Tyler. Shortly thereafter, Jessica called the seat’s manufacturer, Evenflo Company (Evenflo) (defendant) to inquire whether the OMW model was safe to use. The company assured Jessica that it was and was not subject to any of their product recalls. While driving her Chevrolet Suburban from town with her sister and Tyler as passengers, Jessica was forced off the road by an oncoming motorist. The Suburban rolled three times, traveled down a steep incline, and came to rest in a ditch. The left belt hook of the OMW seat broke off during the rollover and ejected the OMW from the vehicle. The seat came to rest about 60 feet from the vehicle. Although Tyler remained strapped in the OMW, he suffered severe brain injuries which resulted in his subsequent death. Jessica and her husband, Chad, (plaintiff) filed a strict products liability suit against Evenflo claiming the OMW seat contained a design defect that caused Tyler’s death. At trial, the Malcolms argued that the OMW’s open-ended belt hook design and the lack of expanded polystyrene padding contributed to Tyler’s death and contended that Evenflo could have manufactured the seat using a feasible superior alternative design. Conversely, Evenflo claimed that the child safety seat was not defective in any way and that the particular OMW model had passed each of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) tests conducted on the seat. The trial court granted the Malcolm’s motion in limine to exclude arguments by Evenflo that the OMW complied with the FMVSS tests reasoning that such compliance was not relevant to the design defect claim. The jury held for the Malcolms and awarded over $6.5 million in compensatory damages. Evenflo appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Morris, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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