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Clairmont v. Amer Sports Winter & Outdoor Co.

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

October 30, 2017

Francis CLAIRMONT and George Clairmont


          Michael D. Ricciuti, Justice

         This action arises out of a January 15, 2011 incident in which the plaintiff, Francis Clairmont (" Clairmont’), tripped and fell while wearing a pair of boots manufactured by defendant Amer Sports Winter & Outdoor Company (" Amer Sports"). Clairmont’s Complaint against Amer Sports alleges negligence (Count I), defective design (Count II), breach of warranty (Count III), and failure to warn (Count IV) in connection her accident. Clairmont’s husband and co-plaintiff, George Clairmont, also asserts a claim for loss of consortium in the Complaint (Count IX).

         This matter is before the Court on Amer Sports’ motion for summary judgment on all of the Plaintiffs’ claims. For the following reasons, Amer Sports’ motion is ALLOWED.


         The following relevant facts are either undisputed or presented in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, in accordance with the dictates of Mass. R. Civ. P. 56.

         On or about January 15, 2011, Plaintiff Francis Clairmont (" Francis") was shopping at the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham. She was wearing a pair of Solomon Gore-tex Contragrip ankle high hiking boots (" the Boots") at the time. Amer Sports manufactured the Boots. The Boots have a " speed lacing" design, which includes a rigid J-shaped hook comprised of a curved neck and a fastening tail, through which the laces pass to tie each of the Boots. As Francis exited the store, the lace of the left boot caught on the hook of her right boot. She fell forward as her legs became entangled and was injured.

         Plaintiffs present no expert testimony on the design of the speed laces, and have adduced no evidence that Amer Sports knew, or had reason to know, of any similar accidents or occurrences caused by the speed laces.

         Amer Sports contends that manufacturers have used the patented speed lacing design for more than one-hundred years, and that this design is popular on hiking boots, work boots, and ice skates.


         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that " there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Mass. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also DuPont v. Commissioner of Corr., 448 Mass. 389, 397 (2007). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no triable issue and he or she is entitled to judgment. Ng Bros. Constr., Inc. v. Cranney, 436 Mass. 638, 644 (2002), citing Pederson v. Time, Inc., 404 Mass. 14, 17 (1989); Kourouvacilis v. Gen. Motors Corp., 410 Mass. 706, 716 (1991). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in his or her favor. Jupin v. Kask, 447 Mass. 141, 143 (2006), citing Coveney v. President & Trs. of the Coll. of the Holy Cross, 388 Mass. 16 (1983); see also Simplex Techs., Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 429 Mass. 196, 197 (1999).

         II. Negligence, Defective Design, and Breach of Warranty Claims (Counts I, II, and III)

         While styled as three different theories of liability, Counts I, II, and III alleging negligence, defective design and breach of warranty, respectively, all turn on the same core contention that the speed laces on the Boots were defectively designed and that such defect caused plaintiff Francis’ accident.

         To establish a claim for defective design, a plaintiff must show that the manufacturer " failed to exercise reasonable care to eliminate avoidable or foreseeable dangers to the user of the product." Morrell v. PreciseEngineering, Inc., 36 Mass.App.Ct. 935, 936 (1994) (Rule 1:28 Opinion), citing Uloth v. CityTank Corp., 376 Mass. 874, 880-881 (1978). A defective design claim requires proof that the product is not reasonably safe for its intended purposes and for reasonably foreseeable uses, considering the customer’s ordinary expectations about the product. SeeBack v. Wickes Corp., 375 Mass. 633, 640-641 (1978); seealsoHaglund v. PhilipMorris, Inc., 446 Mass. 741, 748 (2006) (in design defect case, " jury must weigh multiple factors, including ‘the gravity of the danger posed by the challenged design, the likelihood that such danger would occur, the mechanical feasibility of a safer alternative design, the financial cost of an improved design, and the adverse consequences to the product and to the consumer that would result from an alternative design.’ ") (citations omitted). Further, " [i]n claims alleging negligence in the design of a product, as with claims of a design defect in breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, the plaintiff must show an available design modification which would reduce the risk without undue cost or interference with the performance of the [product], and the jury must consider whether a safer alternative design was available in deciding whether the defendant was negligent for failing to adopt that design.... a reasonable ...

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