Chocolate? Yum! No matter how you might feel after indulging in chocolate, we all agree that it is delicious. Jo Brand, an English comedian, once said what we are all thinking: "Anything is good if it's made of chocolate." Is this true for chocolate cake? Yes. A brownie in the form of cupcake with drizzled hot fudge? Absolutely. What about an apology from our significant other in the form of a box of chocolates from the local chocolate shop? Apology accepted.
Unfortunately for a Texas woman, the M&Ms she was eating weren't entirely made of chocolate. Her M&Ms contained a hard metal object, which she claims injured her mouth, teeth, and gums. As a result of these injuries, the Texas woman sued the manufacturer of M&Ms, Mars, Inc., and Walmart Stores, Inc., the store that distributed these dangerous M&Ms. According to the complaint (the document that begins a lawsuit); she accused them of a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability and strict liability.
This poses two interesting questions. First, can Walmart Stores, Inc. be liable for the lady's injuries? Obviously Walmart didn't have anything to do with the creation of these M&Ms, but somehow the law can still find them liable. To find the answer, let's look up the river, figuratively speaking of course. Imagine the M&Ms being created on top of a Mountain, let's call it Mount Mars. As the M&Ms flow down the river, it passes through a distributor, e.g. Willy Wonka's Valley, through Walmart, and finally to the end-user. When finding who is liable, the law only requires that the product's steps be retraced. By looking up this river, i.e. the chain of distribution, we know that the M&Ms passed through Walmart, various distributors like Willy Wonka's Valley, and Mount Mars. Any business within the M&Ms chain of distribution, like Walmart, can be held liable for the injuries a defective product caused.
Now that we know who may be held liable, let's talk about why or how they may be held liable. Generally, an injured party has three (3) theories to choose from in order to recover from a manufacturer or distributor (remember the "river"): negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. Strict liability, is exactly that----strict. It requires:
1. a defective product that is "unreasonably dangerous";
2. the defect has to come from the design of the product or its manufacture;
3. the defect caused injuries; and
4. the product was not substantially changed from the condition of how it was made and sold.
A breach of the implied warranty of merchantability is just common sense. A product must be fit for the ordinary purpose for which they are sold. In other words, an M&M is chocolate, and chocolate is always enjoyed without any injuries to your mouth, teeth, or gums.
Here at Rubenstein Law, we enjoy our chocolate and we want you too to enjoy it too. If you or your loved ones have ever been injured by a foreign object in your chocolate or food, please call us immediately at 1-800-FL-LEGAL. Our firm has offices in Miami-Dade, Broward, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa.