(Denver, CO). In a high-profile, high-exposure products liability case involving allegations of a defective cannabis leaf trimmer that caused serious injuries, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado granted summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer. WSHB partner Ryan Hicks and his team prevailed in navigating this victory.
“We are thrilled that the court recognized from a legal standpoint plaintiff's inability to prevail on her strict product liability claims pursuant to Colorado law,” said Hicks. “Our clients have been adamant from day one that their cannabis leaf trimming machine at issue was not defective. Moreover, they knew that they provided more than adequate instructions and clear and express warnings, both on the machine itself and within the owner's manual, which, if followed, allowed users to operate the machine safely.”
Hicks, assisted by WSHB attorneys Tamara Jordan and Steve Paysinger, strategically navigated a complex set of facts involving a plaintiff who suffered serious degloving and partial amputation injuries on three fingers after placing her hand near the machine's rotating tumbler and sharp blades in an effort to clear or remove debris while the machine was running. Plaintiff argued that the device was defectively designed in that it did not provide a guard or employ a mechanism to automatically switch off should someone act in a manner consistent with plaintiff. In addition, plaintiff claimed that the instruction manual and warning stickers on the machine provided inadequate warnings as to how to clear plant debris safely. Attorneys Jordan and Paysinger's assistance on this case was vital to securing summary judgment for our clients.
“Our Colorado office has had a string of successes in the courtroom, and this latest ruling underscores the solid legal work done by our team on the ground,” said firmwide managing partner Stewart Reid. “Winning by way of summary judgment is a laudable accomplishment, and the client is ecstatic at the result.”
After carefully and thoughtfully considering the plaintiff's case, the court granted summary judgment in our clients' favor on all claims. In so doing, the court found that our clients provided express warnings instructing the plaintiff on how to remove debris from the machine safely. “Our clients were buoyed by the fact that the court found the instructions and warnings provided were specific enough in nature to avoid the risk of harm presented by the rotating tumbler and sharp blades in that plaintiff was clearly advised to turn off the device before cleaning or the clearing of leaf debris,” said Hicks. “In addition, the court also found that the plaintiff was clearly advised against bodily contact with the moving parts while operating the machine. The instructions were specific and adequate as to the machine's proper use and the myriad of warnings provided unambiguously advised the plaintiff as to how to avoid injury while operating the machine.”
The court also pointed out that the plaintiff failed to offer any expert testimony as to how the instructions and warnings were inadequate, or what additional warning could have been provided which would have allowed plaintiff to avoid injury. Further, the court pointed to the fact that the plaintiff, herself, could not say what additional warnings should have been provided that would have prevented her injury from occurring.
Taking all of the facts and evidence into account, the court found that a jury could not reasonably find our clients liable for a design defect nor inadequate warnings. In short, our clients' cannabis trimming machine, pursuant to established Colorado state law, could not be deemed defective where a user's adherence to proper warnings renders the device safe to use. The court explained that, had the plaintiff heeded clear and unambiguous instructions and warnings by refraining from placing her hand near moving parts and sharp blades in her attempt to clear plant debris from the machine while it was operating, she would not have been injured.
Congrats to Ryan Hicks, Tamara Jordan and Steve Paysinger and the Colorado team at WSHB for this fantastic result for the client!