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Harrison v. Harrison

May 2, 2006

TED HARRISON, JR., A MINOR, BY AUDREY HARRISON, HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, RESPONDENT,
v.
AMY HARRISON, ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Anoka County District Court File No. C0-04-5417.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The exception from Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 4(a) (2004), created by Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 4(b), does not apply only to a product-liability action.

2. Under the plain meaning of the statute, the exception created by Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 4(b), applies to an action for damages arising out of an occurrence or event that involved a child passenger restraint system that had a defect or was faulty because of the way that it was connected or set in position and prepared for use, regardless of the theory of liability in the action.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peterson, Judge

Affirmed

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

OPINION

This appeal is from a summary judgment in an action brought by a minor child against his parents alleging negligent maintenance and installation of the child passenger restraint system that the child was riding in when he was injured in a motor-vehicle collision. Appellants argue that the district court erred in concluding that the exception from Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 4(a) (2004), created by Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 4(b), applies to the minor child's action against his parents. We affirm.

FACTS

The parties stipulated to the following facts for purposes of their cross-motions for summary judgment.

Three-year-old respondent Ted Harrison, Jr. (Teddy) was a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by his mother, appellant Amy Harrison. Teddy was seated in the right rear seating position, directly behind the front passenger seat, and was secured in a child-safety seat, which is also known as a "child passenger restraint system." Another vehicle collided with the Harrison vehicle and caused the Harrison vehicle to leave the roadway and roll over several times. The collision caused Teddy to be released from his safety seat, ejected from the vehicle, and injured.

The safety seat that Teddy was in when the collision occurred was manufactured by Century Products Company and was purchased new for Teddy by his parents. The safety seat uses a two-slotted buckle mechanism that is situated in the seat bottom between the child's legs. The inbound slot had not been used for many months. On the day of the collision, Teddy's father, appellant Ted Harrison, Sr., had secured Teddy in the safety seat. Harrison customarily put Teddy into the safety seat, pulled the seat's harness with the attached tongue over Teddy's head, secured the tongue in the outbound buckle slot until he heard a click, and pulled upward on the harness to ensure that it was securely fastened. This is the procedure that he used just before the collision.

The Minnesota State Patrol investigated the collision and observed that the harness of the safety seat was unlatched at the scene of the collision. The safety seat was strapped into the Harrison vehicle with the vehicle's seat belt, but it was tipped over to the left, away from the right rear passenger-side window and door and nearly horizontal to the rear seat.

The state patrol experimented with the safety seat during the days following the collision and observed that the harness tongue could be pulled free of the outbound buckle slot even though the buckle mechanism had seemed to "click" into place when the tongue was inserted into the outbound buckle slot. The state patrol ultimately discovered that a coin in the inbound, unused slot of the buckle mechanism caused this false-latch phenomenon. The state ...


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