In our post earlier this week, we told readers what “summary judgment”
is and how it can affect the course of a civil lawsuit. Whenever big companies
are named as defendants in lawsuits alleging
product liability or other forms of personal injury, it is common for their attorneys to
file a motion for summary judgment. It is in their interest to have the
case thrown out before it can go to trial.
When considering one side’s motion, however, judges must typically
view the evidence in the manner that is most favorable to the opposing
side. If it is a close call, the judge will often deny the motion and
have the case go to trial.
A good example of this idea is a federal products liability lawsuit against
Fiskars Brands Inc. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a man who alleges
that he suffered serious and long-lasting pain and injuries when one of
the company’s flashlights “spontaneously combusted”
in his pocket in 2009.
At the time of the incident, the man was carrying a Gerber RZ700 flashlight
in his front pants pocket. The flashlight had batteries in it but was
turned off. The plaintiff alleges that the combustion sent “tiny
glass shards in the air and a white or silver colored and chemical-smelling
fumes and smoke around his face." He suffered a burn injury on his
thigh and eye damage.
Defendant Fiskars filed a motion for summary judgment, essentially arguing
that there was insufficient evidence and unreliable testimony to prove
that the product malfunctioned because it was defective.
Thankfully, the judge denied the motion and the case will now go to trial.
The judge wrote: “the evidence presented at this stage of the case
is sufficient to give rise to a genuine issue of material fact as the
question of whether the flashlight malfunctioned as a result of a manufacturing
If summary judgment had been granted to the defendant, the case essentially
would have been dismissed. The judge’s decision doesn’t mean
that the plaintiff has won his case. Rather, it means that the case now
has the chance to go to trial and be heard by a jury.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Pocket Flashlight Blast May Cost Manufacturer,”
Philip A. janquart, Sept. 5, 2014