Joaquin Mendez, 23, has a cousin who is lethally literal. Alexandro Garibaldi, 24, (left) was with Mendez when his cousin asked whether a bulletproof vest he had put on “still worked.” Garibaldi allegedly responded by saying “Let’s see” and shooting his cousin who died from the fatal wounds.
Police however found Mendez outside without the bulletproof vest. Garibaldi claimed that he found his cousin with the wounds, but a witness implicated Garibaldi. The vest was found inside of the house.
Garibaldi is facing a manslaughter charge. He is likely to raise a novel defense that he lacked intent because he assumed that the vest would stop a bullet.
Obviously Garibaldi can also be sued for assault, battery and wrongful death. However, the more interesting question is whether the Mendez estate could sue the manufacturer of the vest for a product defect, including possible design, manufacturing or warning defects. The presumption of Garibaldi was clearly that the vest could stop a bullet. Regardless of his commission of manslaughter, the family could argue that the ordinary consumer would expect that the vest would work against a handgun. There might also be a failure to properly warn that a close shot might penetrate the vest.
However, some reports indicate that it was not a bulletproof vest but a flak jacket. The flak jacket are “bullet resistant” a distinction that might be lost on many consumers like waterproof and water resistant distinctions for watches. The question is whether there is warning on the jacket itself.
There are also a surprising 5 year warranty on such vests. I would have assumed a much longer warranty on such items.