Fantastic Furniture bills itself as home of “Australia’s Best Value Bedding and Furniture.” However, its Worx chairs reportedly have a rather disconcerting design defect: cutting part of toes off customers. The roughly 100,000 Worx chairs have been recalled by the company after two people lost toes.
Mark Bulman, lost the middle toe of his left foot last year after it was caught in the inner side of one of the legs. Eleven-year-old Trae McGovern (right) also lost part of a toe after he stubbed his left foot on a Worx chair. It is still unclear how the plastic chair could have this dangerous flaw.
In products liability, we generally look for three types of defects: manufacturing, warning, and design defects. This could be either a manufacturing or design defect. It is possible that the plastic form was made in a way that has unintended sharp elements. Alternatively, the design itself may lend itself to a trap or cutting area. Either way, this would satisfy the American standard under either the Restatement (Second) or Restatement (Third) for a design defect. Having a toe cutting chair would certainly run afoul of Restatement Second Section 402A and the consumer expectation test. “One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm.”
Likewise, it would seem an easy case to make out a design defect under Restatement Third Section 2(b), which states that a product is
(b) is defective in design when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design by the seller or other distributor, or a predecessor in the commercial chain of distribution, and the omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has asked Fantastic to recall the chairs. The company agree due to a possible “entrapment or laceration hazard.” Customers can either return the chairs for the reimbursement of $27 – or take free insert plugs to make the chairs safe.
It would make for a strong torts case under product liability if it were tried in the United States.