Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a $3.35 million jury verdict against Otis Elevator Company for an injury to a four-year old boy caused by a defective escalator that bore Otis Elevator’s name but that was in fact manufactured by an independent Chinese company, China Tianjin Otis Elevator Company, Ltd. (CTOEC). The case is an important decision that adopts part of the “apparent manufacturer” doctrine from the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Product Liability. (The Restatements are publications put out by the American Law Institute, an influential body of legal scholars; the Restatements attempt to summarize existing law and, sometimes, will suggest more progressive approaches for the law to develop.)
The boy was visiting his grandparents in China when his hand became trapped between the escalator skirt panel and the step tread. His hand was nearly severed mid-palm and he has suffered a permanent thirty-one percent whole-body impairment as a result.
Otis argued that it could not be held legally responsible for the defective escalator because, although the escalator bore its name and trademark, it never sold anything; it simply licensed its name and trademark to the Chinese company for the Chinese company to use in elevators it sold and provided some technical support. Otis insisted that product liability law requires it to be a seller at some point in time in order for it to be held liable for a defective product.
The Supreme Judicial Court rejected Otis’ arguments and agreed with Judge Lemire, the trial judge, who told the jury that the fact Otis need not have actually sold or manufactured the defective product in question, so long as it allowed the escalators to be sold bearing Otis’ trademark.
You can read the case here: Lou v. Otis Elevator Co.
This blog is maintained by the Boston product liability lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. It does not contain legal advice nor should you construe it as offering legal advice relative to any personal injury claims that you may have.