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Brand v. Holmes Air Taiwan

June 13, 2007

JIM BRAND AND DEENA BRAND, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF KAYLA BRAND, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HOLMES AIR TAIWAN, INC., AND THE HOLMES GROUP, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is defendant The Holmes Group, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment (Doc. 25), to which plaintiffs have responded (Doc. 32), and The Holmes Group, Inc., has replied (Doc. 35).

BACKGROUND

On December 7, 2005, plaintiffs Jim Brand and Deena Perkins,*fn1 individually and as next friend of minor Kayla Brand, filed a four count complaint against defendants claiming strict products liability and negligence. Defendant The Holmes Group, Inc., manufactures and sells humidifiers. Plaintiffs allege that then 15-month-old Kayla Brand was injured at her home in Greenville, Illinois, by a "Warm Mist Humidifier" produced and sold by defendant, which was set up in her room by her mother. Plaintiffs further allege that the humidifier at issue was defective and unreasonably dangerous for its foreseeable use in one or more of the following ways: (A) it allowed the water in the vaporizing chamber of the humidifier to reach temperatures high enough to cause permanent injury and damage should the water be spilled on a person; and/or (B) it failed to adequately warn users and consumers that water in the humidifier could reach temperatures high enough to cause permanent injury and damage should the water be spilled on a person. Plaintiffs also allege that defendant was negligent in that: (A) it produced, marketed and sold the humidifier which allowed the water in the vaporizing chamber to reach temperatures high enough to cause permanent injury and damage should the water be spilled on a person; and (B) it failed to adequately warn users and consumers that water in the humidifier could reach temperatures high enough to cause permanent injury and damage should the water be spilled on a person. (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3, 7).

Jim Brand purchased the humidifier, read the product instructions and warnings and passed on the significant information he read with respect to the operation and safety of the humidifier to Deena. (Doc. 32, p. 4; Aff. of Deena Perkins, Doc. 32, Ex. 3, ¶ 3; Aff. of Jim Brand, Doc. 32, Ex. 2, ¶ 7). Deena Perkins did not read the instruction booklet that accompanied the humidifier. (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, p. 16). Deena Perkins did not read the warning on the top of the mister, which states "Mist can be HOT. Keep away from children." (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, p. 22; Doc. 26, p. 4). Jim Brand did read that warning. (Brand Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. B, p. 16). Additionally, the Owner's Guide contained the following warnings in the Important Safety Instructions section:

NEVER place the humidifier in an area where it is accessible to small children.

NEVER tilt, move, or attempt to empty unit while it is operating.

Shut off and unplug before removing the water tank and moving the unit. DO NOT attempt to remove the water tank within 15 minutes after the humidifier is turned off and unplugged. Serious injury may result. (Doc. 26-1, p. 4) (emphasis in original).

Deena Perkins admitted in her deposition testimony that she knew that steam is created when water turns to vapor at the boiling point of water, and that water cooler than boiling water could cause burn injuries. (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, pp. 26-27). Mr. Brand admitted in deposition testimony that one of the ways to create steam is to boil water, and he understood that is what was going on in the humidifier. (Brand Depo. Doc. 27, Ex. B, p. 19).

On the date of Kayla's injuries, the humidifier was in her bedroom, on top of a towel which was placed on a television tray that was approximately the same height as Kayla. (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, pp. 33-34, 36). Jim Brand was not present, as he and Deena had separated and she had obtained an order of protection. (Brand Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. B, p. 22-23). As described by Deena Perkins, the injury occurred was as follows:

The girls had been taking a nap. And generally at nap time they threw their pacifiers over the sides of their cribs either before they went to sleep or when they woke up. So they had woken up from [their] nap and we were in the other room playing and watching TV. I realized that we had no pacifiers. I went back in the room to collect some pacifiers and was bending underneath the crib to reach to the far side of [Kayla's twin sister's crib] when I heard a thump and Kayla started screaming, and [Kayla's twin sister] was standing back in the corner by the window and the closet. And she was screaming. I picked her up. The humidifier was on the floor. Her clothes were still very hot. . . . So just the first thought in my mind was to take her clothes off of her because-I don't know why. It just came into my mind. When I took her clothes off of her, her skin was coming off with them. (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, pp. 38-39). Kayla was burned on her stomach, right arm and bottom. (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, p. 56). Deena Perkins stated in her deposition testimony that Kayla's injuries do not impact her day-to-day activities. (Perkins Depo., Doc. 27, Ex. A, p. 57).

Defendant

The Holmes Group, Inc. now moves for summary judgment ...


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