Massachusetts Court Dismisses Product Liability Claim for Lack of Standing

In Kerin v. Titeflex Corporation, a homeowner had installed a gas fire pit at his home that used Gastite CSST, a device that is common in both commercial and residential buildings and that is used to provide gas to stoves, fire pits, and other devices. The plaintiff filed suit against the maker of Gastite CSST, Titeflex Corporation, claiming that there was a product defect in the product’s corrugated stainless steel tubing.

The plaintiff originally filed suit in Massachusetts federal district court. In his complaint, the plaintiff asserted four causes of action against the manufacturer:  strict liability, negligence in design, negligent failure to warn, and strict liability for failure to warn. The plaintiff sought damages for the cost of replacing the Gastite CSST device with something that did not pose the same potential dangers.

The defendant challenged the complaint for lack of standing, and the lower court judge dismissed the case, finding the plaintiff’s alleged injury too attenuated to support a claim for damages. The court also noted that the plaintiff had failed to appropriately allege the standard of care that applied to economic harm in a defective product lawsuit according to Massachusetts law.

Standing is an important threshold requirement that must be established in a lawsuit. To prove standing, a plaintiff typically must prove that he or she has suffered a concrete, specific injury. In this case, the lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit, stating that his injury was merely speculative and had not yet occurred.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the injury was not speculative because if lightning strikes the Gastite CSST device, it will create punctures, which can cause the natural gas inside the device to ignite. In discussing the appropriate factual showing required to satisfy the standing element, the court noted that lightning did not pose such a speculative and uncertain risk as the lower court had concluded. In cases in which the harm is based on the occurrence of some risk of future damage, courts must use caution in assessing whether the plaintiff has met the standing requirement.

According to the appellate court, Kerin was not able to provide enough facts to allow the court to determine how likely it was the future harm would be caused, nor could it show situations in which there was a clear causal link to damage. This meant that the potential harm was too speculative to give rise to a case. Ultimately, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit for lack of standing.

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to a dangerously defective product, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we have provided legal guidance to accident victims throughout Massachusetts and know what it takes to pursue a settlement or a judgment in your favor. Call us now at 508-362-5554 or contact us online to set up a free, no-obligation consultation today.

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