The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that under Florida law, where product safety warnings are objectively accurate, clear and unambiguous, a court may decide that the warnings are adequate as a matter of law, thus affirming a district court’s grant of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Farias v. Mr. Heater, Inc., No. 11-10405 (11th Cir., decided June 21, 2012). The plaintiff, who claimed the defendants failed to warn her that indoor use of propane gas-fired infra-red portable heaters could be dangerous and allegedly sustained $300,000 in damages from a fire after she used the heaters inside her home, contended that the issue was for a jury to decide.
According to the plaintiff, the adequacy of the warnings must be determined by a jury because the English-language written warnings and graphic depictions were “inherently contradictory, inaccurate and ambiguous” and the circumstances surrounding the marketing of these heaters to Miami’s Hispanic community are similar to another case “which left the question of the adequacy of the English-only warnings on a consumer product to the jury.” The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, finding that “the totality of the written warnings and graphic depictions … adequately notified consumers of the ‘apparent potential harmful consequences’ of the indoor use of the Mr. Heater propane gas heater, including the risk of fire.”
The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, finding that “the totality of the written warnings and graphic depictions … adequately notified consumers of the ‘apparent potential harmful consequences’ of the indoor use of the Mr. Heater propane gas heater, including the risk of fire.”
The court was also unpersuaded that the facts were similar to those in the other case where the pervasiveness of product advertising in the Hispanic media led the court there to leave to the jury “whether a warning, to be adequate, must contain language other than English or pictorial warning symbols.” Apparently, the plaintiff produced no evidence that the defendants “marketed Mr. Heater in any way to Spanish-speaking customers through the use of Hispanic media. That Home Depot has recently instituted an internal policy for all of its vendors to use bilingual packaging is not evidence of a targeted marketing campaign of the Mr. Heater to Miami’s Hispanic community through predominantly Hispanic media outlets.”