Montana Takes a Flexible Approach to the Heeding Presumption

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We previously discussed the Montana Supreme Court case of Riley v. American Honda Motor Co., 856 P.2d 196 (Mont. 1993) and touted it as one of the best rejections of the heeding presumption we’ve seen – rejecting all of the most often advanced arguments in favor of the heeding presumption. So we were a bit surprised when we learned about that same court’s decision in Patch v. Hillerich & Bradsby Co., No. 2011 MT 175, slip op. (Mont. July 21, 2011) (unpublished) – applying the heeding presumption.

While not a drug or medical device case, Patch is definitely a step backward by the Montana Supreme Court and one that may well have implications for our clients. Patch involves the tragic death of an 18 year-old boy who, while pitching a baseball game, was struck in the head by a ball hit using an aluminum bat manufactured by the defendant. Patch, slip op. at 2. A jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff finding that the defendant failed to adequately warn about the enhanced risks associated with its bat which allegedly increased the velocity speed of a batted ball. Id. at 3.

On appeal, the defendant sought review, among other things, of the lower’s court’s denial of defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on the failure to warn claim. Id. at 2 (other aspects of the appeal raised issues related to decedent’s status as a bystander, the “workability” of providing a warning, and assumption of the risk, see id. at 5-8, 12-13). The main issue – causation. It is here that the Montana Supreme Court seems to do an about face.

Please see full article below for more information.

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