A federal court in Texas has granted the defendants’ motion to designate the mother of a child allegedly injured in a spill from the company’s infant seat as a responsible third party with respect to the minor child’s claims. Hernandez v. Bumbo (Pty.) Ltd.,  No. 12-1213 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Tex., order entered March 10, 2014). The defendants claim that her “use of the Bumbo Seat on a raised surface was an improper use of the product, and contrary to the warnings that accompanied the product.” According to the defendant, by designating her as a responsible third party, the jury would be able to determine “whether, and to what extent, she shares in the responsibility for C.H.’s fall and injuries.”

The court agreed with the defendants that their motion was not untimely under the state’s rules of civil procedure, the third-party designation is not precluded by the doctrine of parental immunity due to liberalizing amendments made to the applicable rule in 2003 and a party to a case may be designated as a responsible third party.  As to the latter, the court observed, “[t]here is, however, little legal authority as to whether a claimant, particularly a guardian bringing a claim on behalf of a minor plaintiff, may nonetheless be designated a responsible third party.” Finding that the purpose of the 2003 amendments to the requirements for designating responsible third parties “was to liberalize who may be so designated” and because a jury would otherwise be unable to consider the extent of the mother’s liability “in the contribu- tory negligence context” due to the parental immunity doctrine, the court found the designation “consistent with the aims of the 2003 amendments.”