“Fantastic Chair” Recalled Over Possible Design Defect . . . For Cutting Off Toes

_87597962_worxFantastic 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.


2FF5F2D500000578-0-image-m-3_1452380190254Mark 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.

64 thoughts on ““Fantastic Chair” Recalled Over Possible Design Defect . . . For Cutting Off Toes”

  1. KCFleming: “But it stands to reason that pain caused by a disk should be relieved by treating the disk.
    Otherwise, how but do you know it was causing pain?”

    It doesn’t always work that way.

    In my case, the injury caused the disk to impinge on the spinal cord (very obvious in MRI). It also impinged on root ganglia causing pain in my hands. That pain did not resolve after the cervical fusion. And I still have funny feelings in my legs due to the spinal cord issue (that also did not resolve).

  2. “They no longer sell this design of lounge chair. I’m betting she’s not the only one injured in this manner, which is why.
    How many lawsuits over the same defect?
    One? None?
    Yet a design so dangerous it could whack you like a baseball bat and throw you to the ground causing a brain injury?
    Seems like everyone who used it should have gone to the hospital.

    Call me increasingly unconvinced.

  3. It would have to be. Kroger Sav-Ons are middle-low-end neighborhood pharmacies. I suspect it was the old style folding type. Aluminum.

    “She didn’t recline, either.
    She was sitting down, right? And it ‘folded up’.

    And as you wrote above, “The back, containing a metal bar, hit her in the back of her head and then slammed the front of her head onto the concrete patio. Simultaneously, her buttocks hit the concrete

    So simultaneous to the back metal bar hitting her in the back of her head, she slams the front of her head onto the concrete patio AND her buttocks hit the concrete.
    A remarkable feat, her forehead and buttock hitting the concrete at the same time.

    Call me increasingly unconvinced.

  4. Not the same design. She didn’t recline, either. It folded up the moment she applied the weight of her body to the seat. They no longer sell this design of lounge chair. I’m betting she’s not the only one injured in this manner, which is why.

  5. “You continue to deny your accusation that I lied about there being a case with these facts.

    As the post in question here shows, any good lawyer can make a case about anything, and get a jury to buy into it.
    That’s not the same as what the facts are as to causality.
    I never denied you could make a case.
    I said I smelled BS.
    I was right.

  6. Now you’re changing the facts.
    Why say she fell 9 inches if it was actually farther? How far was it? Was that in the trial?
    Now I am even more distrustful of your claims.

    “I would think the velocity of having a metal bar slam
    You might think so. I wouldn’t.
    You think a swinging baseball bat which can crack open a skull equals falling less than a yard.
    Nope.
    Show me the numbers.
    What was the metal bar made of? How thick? How far did it travel before striking her?

    “a metal bar, hit her in the back of her head and then slammed the front of her head onto the concrete patio.
    She sounds like an acrobat.
    The entire sequence sounds fishy to me.
    She is reclining on a lounge chair and somehow falls falls forward? (How else doe she hit the front of her head?) Was the chaise lounge spring-loaded?

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  7. Wrong again, Dr. Fleming. She got smacked in the back of the head when she applied the weight of her body to the seat of the chair. Because the chair mechanism wasn’t locked, which wasn’t apparent because there were no instructions advising about the audible “click” that would have told her this, and also because she forced open the chair as much as her strength would allow but because the parts were put together too tightly, making it nearly impossible to lock into position, the chair folded up on her when she sat down on the seat. The jury tested the chair out in open court. It appeared to be fully open without locking into place. The back, containing a metal bar, hit her in the back of her head and then slammed the front of her head onto the concrete patio. Simultaneously, her buttocks hit the concrete also. This is the 9-inch distance referenced in the record–the distance from her buttocks to the ground, not the distance her head was above the ground. So, this was much more than just hitting her head from a 9 inch height. She sustained blows on both the front and back of her head as well as trauma to her neck and lower back.

    I would think the velocity of having a metal bar slam into the back of your skull with sufficient force to cause your head to hit the ground from a seated position 9 inches above the ground would be similar to being hit in the head with a baseball bat. We could try this on you, if you’d like to volunteer.

    You continue to deny your accusation that I lied about there being a case with these facts.

  8. ” all bodies fall at the same rate
    Exactly, and accounted for in the calculation.
    She introduced the “hit by a bat” analogy, which is not a free-fall.
    I added a little speed for her own movement, but you can see the gross exaggeration comparing the two.

  9. @Paul. these are estimates simply to demonstrate that hitting your head from falling 9 inches is nowhere near like getting hit with a baseball bat.

  10. Ack. transposed numbers..
    She fell 9 inches.
    d = 0.5 * g * t2
    0.2286m = 0.5 * 9.8 * t^2
    It takes 0.216 seconds for an object to fall 9 inches from a stop (velocity = 0).
    vf = g * t (dropped from rest)
    The speed of an object falling from dead stop motion to 9 inches is 2.11 meter/sec or 4.71 mph.
    With her sitting motion, maybe 5-6 mph max velocity.

  11. Let’s use the 20 oz bat at 68.5mph.
    vf = g * t
    68.5 = 9.8 * t
    t = 6.99 sec

    For an object to fall from rest for 6.99 sec:
    d = 0.5 * g * t2
    d = 0.5 * 9.8 * (6.99)^2
    d = 239m = 261 yards.

    A 261 yards fall to equal getting hit by a baseball bat.
    A little more than 9 inches.

    1. KCFleming – less wind resistance, all bodies fall at the same rate. Baseball bats move at different rates. I think you need to recalculate.

  12. “Let’s go back to the original premise, and that was I was lying about this case and how this woman was injured. I was not.

    Maybe, maybe not.
    It’s possible you believe all that blather.
    It’s possible you beleive falling 9 inches is like getting hit with a baseball bat.
    But it’s not.

    So maybe not lying, and just wrong.
    However, the baseball bat analogy you used shows you are willing to play fast and loose with the facts for effect, so it’s hard to tell..

  13. I’m certain you remain convinced by all that.
    And I’m glad you found a jury who believed it, too.
    Good for you.
    You made a half million bucks off of a chair company that was not responsible.
    Such are the mysterious workings of the US legal system. Who am I to question it?

    However, stating the same facts louder don’t make them any more probative.
    I congratulate you on the colorful description; it makes good theater..
    I’m sure it works in court, too, even if it proves nothing.
    Maybe it’s time to bang your shoe on the desk, or type it in all caps.

    “Your comments about a small number of non-symptomatic disc herniations
    You missed the point.
    20-30-plus percent of people walk around with neck and low back disc herniations with no symptoms at all. That is a huge number.
    Therefore, you would expect 1 in 3 or 4 patients complaining of neck or back pain to have a disc herniation on imaging.
    This raises the key question for the case, which you and the opposing counsel and the doctors and the jury missed: what did the imaging findings have to do with her pain, if anything?
    Because caused by was the entire case, no?

    “.;..doesn’t mean that such injuries do not occur when there is trauma
    So what? You were talking about the facts this case, not a philosophy of pain.
    The questions were:
    1. Did the 9 inch chair collapse cause the imaging findings?
    2. Did the imaging findings cause this pain?
    3. Do those imaging findings ever cause pain?

    You proved none of those to my satisfaction.

    And the there’s this:

    “Presnell placed the chair on its side, unfolded it, opened the legs until resistance was met in a vertical position, turned the chair upright, and, while she was in the process of sitting down, the chair collapsed. Presnell fell approximately nine inches and struck the cement floor of the patio.”

    By your facts, she fell 9 inches.
    d = 0.5 * g * t2
    0.2286m = 0.5 * 9.8 * t^2
    It takes 0.2286 seconds for an object to fall 9 inches from a stop (velocity = 0).
    vf = g * t (dropped from rest)
    The speed of an object falling from dead stop motion to 9 inches is 1.06 meter/sec or 2.37 mph.

    If I doubled that, to account for some motion by Presnell, that’s 4.7 mph.
    However, that’s unlikely given that she was only sitting down, and the average walking speed is just 3.1 mph.
    Even if she were running, Marathon runners average only 8.8mph.
    You didn’t say she was running, so no; unlikely.

    Anyway, the average speed of a swung bat depends on its weight:
    20 oz bat = 68.5mph
    40 oz = 80.4 mph.
    So your analogy (“whack you in the back of your head with a ball bat”) was a colorful lie as well.
    This was nowhere near like getting hit with a ball bat.

    I await my apology.

  14. I have a suggestion, Dr. Fleming: Let’s suspend you 9 inches above a solid concrete surface and then whack you in the back of your head with a ball bat, making sure the contralateral side of your head hits the concrete and simultaneously drop you on your buttocks and then see how you fare. She was hit in the back of her head by the chair back, the front of her head struck concrete, AND her buttocks hit the ground. She had a coup-contracoup type concussion injury to her head. The case was vigorously defended by very experienced defense counsel that attacked her in every way possible, but they lost both before the trial court and Court of Appeals. The majority of the jury were college graduates, which is unusual in Indiana, but there is a college located in Terre Haute Indiana. Regardless of prior history, she worked full-time at a physically demanding job until this happened to her.

    But, we digress. Let’s go back to the original premise, and that was I was lying about this case and how this woman was injured. I was not. You have attempted to second-guess the jury’s verdict with your cynical, biased and just plain incorrect conclusions, but this injury did happen and was proven to a jury in Indiana, an extremely conservative state with historically low percentages of personal injury plaintiff victories.

    Your comments about a small number of non-symptomatic disc herniations doesn’t mean that such injuries do not occur when there is trauma, as there was in this case. Doctors are fully aware of this.

  15. But it stands to reason that pain caused by a disk should be relieved by treating the disk.
    Otherwise, how but do you know it was causing pain?

  16. KCFleming: “1. If the pain was in fact discogenic (i.e., from the herniated disc), the back surgery should have cured it. It didn’t, so that was not the cause.”

    No, necessarily. Again, my injury is example.

  17. “…that does not make the pain any less real
    WRXDave
    You missed the point, and inadvertently supported mine.

    This is a court case, not a doctor’s office.
    In this case a women fell nine inches and struck the back of her head.
    Supposedly this caused pain that became chronic, was unresponsive to surgery, and became so bad she tried to kill herself.

    Your simple neuroanatomy in no way explains how how that could be so, and in no way supports that the maker of the folding chair should pay her $450K for it.

    1. If the pain was in fact discogenic (i.e., from the herniated disc), the back surgery should have cured it. It didn’t, so that was not the cause.
    2. The inflammatory process should not, in the absence of underlying connective tissue disease like RA, last forever. So discard that as anything but a brief cause.
    3. Muscles spasms were not claimed or demonstrated. And nine inch falls do not cause lifetime muscle spasms.
    4. Structural instability was not claimed or demonstrated.
    5. It would be extremely unusual for a fall of nine inches to cause pain that lasts forever. Her pain is far out of proportion to the damage described (if there was any damage, which I doubt).
    6. It would be extremely unusual for a fall of nine inches to cause a seizure disorder (if there was one, which was not proven by the court records).

    Her pain is real, and is called a chronic pain disorder, and much of it, in her case, was caused by her sad lifetime experiences (child abuse is almost a certainty here).
    The neuroanatomy and neurophysiology behind chronic pain is far more complex than you aver.
    Simple pain such as you describe would indeed cause a brief episode of pain. I’d giver $50 for that (and take away $20 for failing to check the stability of a cheap folding chair before flopping into it.)

    If your patient tripped on the clinic carpet and fell (from 5 feet) onto your floor and got up and walked away, but ended up in constant pain and tried to kill herself from it, well, let me suggest you’d feel a bit different when they ask you to fork over $450,000.

  18. KCFleming,
    The fact that a sizable percentage of the population have asymptomatic disc herniations in no way prevents other herniations from causing or being directly associated with painful conditions. The pain may not be a direct result of impingement of the herniation, but the inflammatory process, or from muscles spasms or structural instability. The disc abnormalities may be symptomatic of the problem causing the pain or causal.

    If you wish to discuss pain, pain signaling & pain processing in the body from nociception, through the dorsal horn into the hypothalamus and brain I am quite willing to do so.

    You are correct that previous trauma predisposes one experience pain differently, however that does not make the pain any less real.

    Pain is what the brain tells you it is.

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