May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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Quote of the Day - My daughter made me a Jerry Springer-watching kit, with crackers, Cheez Whiz, polyester stretch pants and a T-shirt with two fat women fighting over a skinny guy. - Roseanne Barr
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Nebraska Court Snuffs Out Claim For T-shirt That Caught Fire

In my closet is a T-shirt I've had since high school.  I should probably throw it away because it's full of holes, but I'm a guy.  I hold on to things like that.  Especially since it reminds my that I somehow managed to make it through three-a-day practices before football season started.  Sure, I'm almost 50 now, but that's not the point.  I was younger then. 

You understand, don't you?

Jeffery J. Marksmeier apparently did, and it was almost his undoing.  In 1999, Jeff was wearing an old T-shirt manufactured by McGregor (link has sound) that wasn't manufactured after 1990.  And he was burning leaves.  Obviously, he doesn't live here in California; he's from Nebraska where things like that are still legal.  While he was burning leaves, however, he apparently leaned over a little too close to the pile of leaves and his T-shirt caught fire

Jeff was severely burned, and to recover for his damages, in 2003, he sued McGregor and a company called Delta Apparel, Inc., which manufactured the T-shirt under license from McGregor.  Apparently in the interim, there has been a change in the materials used to manufacture T-shirts, and Jeff claimed strict liability for using a material that didn't have flame retardant on it.

Instead, the Nebraska Supreme Court made short work of Jeff's lawsuit, and dismissed his claims against both McGregor and Delta.  The high court cited Nebraska's statute of repose for bringing lawsuits against manufacturers of goods that were manufactured more than 10 years before the suit was filed.  The Nebraska court had not had the opportunity to interpret its statute of repose before, but no worries, it found that Tennessee used the same one.  With a hat tip to a series of Tennessee cases, the court snuffed out Jeff's claims against these two manufacturers. 

Jeff and his mother were unable to testify when they got the T-shirt and how long it had been on the shelf at the store where they bought it.  Jeff even thought the T-shirt might have come from Goodwill.  McGregor, on the other hand, knew exactly when that particular T-shirt had stopped rolling off the manufacturing presses:  1990.  More than 10 years had elapsed between then and the time Jeff filed suit, so Jeff did not pass go or collect $200.

Maybe it's time I clean out my closet. 

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, October 23, 2006 at 11:08 Comments (0)


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