Judge Tosses Burning Spiderman Shirt Lawsuit


     BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit over an “Amazing Spiderman” t-shirt that caught fire while a child was standing in front of a heater because his parents did not prove that the shirt was defective.
     Allen and Rachel Pearl sued Mad Engine Inc. in Marion County, Ala. court in 2012 after the t-shirt that their 5 year-old son Brodie was wearing caught fire when he turned to warm himself in front of an electronic coil wall heater in his bathroom. The case was removed to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
     According to the lawsuit, the boy was alone at the time and screamed for his mother, who saw him in the hallway with “the front of his shirt engulfed in flames.” Brodie was burned on over 18 percent of his body and his mother’s hands were also burned as she tried to put out the flames on the shirt.
     The t-shirt was bought at a Wal-Mart and was made of 100 percent cotton, the complaint states. The front of the shirt was decorated with a screen-printed image of Spiderman and it had been placed in an oven at 330 degrees Fahrenheit during the printing process, according to court records.
     The Pearls sued Mad Engine, the manufacturer of the shirt, for product liability. They provided an expert to testify on the origin of the fire, but U.S. Magistrate T. Michael Putnam found that the testimony was not “sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could infer that the shirt manufactured by Mad Engine was unreasonable dangerous or defective.” He also ruled that the Pearls did not offer any evidence that a standard of care was breached in the manufacture of the shirt.
     Putnam wrote that Mad Engine offered “undisputed” expert testimony that the shirt fabric met federal flammability standards for clothing and also provided evidence that it had sold “millions” of similar t-shirts without any complaint.
     The judge called the case “tragic” because a young child “suffered life-changing injuries in a split second,” and although what caused the t-shirt to catch fire “remains a mystery”, the Pearls did not meet their burden of proof to show that the shirt was unreasonable dangerous.
     Putnam granted Mad Engine’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Pearls’ claims with prejudice.

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