Gainesville Judge Declines to Dismiss “Exploding Arrow” Lawsuit

When your child is seriously injured due to an apparently defective consumer product, you rightfully want to seek justice against the companies responsible for bringing the dangerous item to market. Under Georgia law, there are a number of possible legal theories to support a product liability claim. Of course, the facts of each particular case will dictate which theories are applicable.

Morgan v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc.

For example, a federal judge in Gainesville recently denied most of a motion to dismiss a product liability lawsuit arising from injuries sustained by a minor child due to an allegedly defective bow-and-arrow set. According to the plaintiffs, the child’s parents, they purchased the set from a popular sporting goods retailer in Gainesville. The lawsuit alleges that a retail salesperson “assisted” the plaintiffs in selecting the particular bow-and-arrow set at issue.

Later that same day, the plaintiffs’ son started using the set. According to the lawsuit, the child fired two arrows using the bow. While the first arrow “fired without incident,” the second arrow “exploded, splintering into pieces in the middle of the shaft.” This forced small pieces of fiberglass into the child’s left hand and thumb, requiring surgery and periodic follow-up procedures that have “directly impacted [the child’s] quality of life,” according to the parents.

The plaintiffs sued both the retailer and the manufacturer of the bow-and-arrow set under a number of theories. The defendant manufacturer moved for dismissal. In a February 13 opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story addressed the plaintiff’s claims against the manufacturer as follows:

  • First, the plaintiffs accused the manufacturer of “negligence,” specifically that it “failed to warn” the retailer that the arrows should have been displayed in a particular manner to prevent damage, and that the type of arrows involved in this accident “should not be sold with compound bows.” Judge Story said he was “skeptical” of this argument, as Georgia law has not historically recognized claims for manufacturers failing to warn retailers. But he said the plaintiffs could proceed on this issue for now.
  • Second, the plaintiffs accused the manufacturer of failing to warn them, as consumers, about the dangers of using the bow-and-arrow set. Again, the judge said this claim could proceed to at least the discovery stage of litigation.
  • Third, the plaintiffs alleged the arrows were defective as a matter of law. Georgia law recognized “strict liability” for manufacturing defects. Here, the plaintiffs alleged the arrow was defective when sold, which fits the definition of a “manufacturing defect claim.”
  • Fourth, the plaintiffs alleged the manufacturers breached an “implied warranty.” This was the only claim Judge Story dismissed at this time. He explained that is well established under Georgia law “that manufacturers may not be subject to implied warranty liability because of the lack of privity between the manufacturer and the ultimate product purchaser.” That is to say, since the manufacturer did not directly sell the arrows to the plaintiffs, there is no warranty between them, unless the manufacturer chose to expressly offer one.