Pocket Flashlight Blast May Cost Manufacturer

     BOISE, Idaho (CN) – A man who suffered burns when a flashlight “spontaneously combusted” in his pocket has a case for product liability, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge accepted a report and recommendation to advance the federal complaint Zelijko Sabo filed against Fiskars Brands Inc. dba Gerber Legendary Blades.
     Sabo said his Gerber RZ700 flashlight, powered by Gerber CR123A lithium batteries, “spontaneously combusted” in his front pants pocket back in 2009, sending “tiny glass shards in the air and a white or silver colored and chemical-smelling fumes and smoke around his face.”
     Claiming that the pain from his injuries has persisted for too long, Sabo is alleging negligence, manufacturing or design defect, and inadequate warning or failure to warn.
     Though Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale advised the court that questions of fact exist as to whether the product was defective, Fiskars said it deserved summary judgment.
     The manufacturer challenged expert testimony given by Dr. Samuel Levy, as well as Sabo’s “lay” testimony alleging the incident proves the malfunction, but Judge Lodge said Tuesday that the case should advance.
     “The court agrees with the report’s conclusion that 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 defect,” the 16-page order states.
     Both Levy and Sabo’s testimony are admissible at this juncture.
     “The court is in agreement with the report’s analysis and conclusion that Mr. Sabo’s lay testimony is circumstantial evidence giving rise to the inference that the product malfunctioned sufficient to present a genuine issue of material fact in this case,” Lodge said. “Additionally, the court finds no error in the report’s statement that flashlights do not normally spontaneously combust while in the off position in one’s pocket.”

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