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Philadelphia County

This action involved a product liability claim against the manufacturer of a molded plastic Frisbee-like flying disc. The plaintiff claimed he was discarding the flying disc and bent it when it suddenly broke into pieces and a plastic shard was projected into his eye. The plaintiff alleged that the flying disc was manufactured from an inappropriate propylene material which shattered under force. The defendant argued that the flying disc was not intended to be bent and was misused by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff testified that he saw the plastic disc sitting on the floor of his children’s playroom and noticed that it was partially fractured with two small pieces missing. He testified that he picked it up, took it to the trash receptacle and flexed it slightly to fit it in the opening. As he flexed it, the plaintiff claimed that the disc broke and a shard of plastic shot into his eye.

The plaintiffs’ liability expert contended the disc was defective because it was manufactured with a brittle material inappropriate for use in a flying disc. The disc was made of polypropylene, a plastic with low ductility and a known propensity to shatter like glass, according to the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiffs’ expert testified that the defendant should have made the flying disc of polyethylene, a highly flexible plastic that costs approximately the same amount as polypropylene.

The plaintiff argued that the action that caused the injury, bending the flying disc slightly, was an intended use because it was entirely foreseeable. The plaintiff argued that this is especially so, given that flying discs are known to be thrown long distances, to crash into hard surfaces, be stuffed into backpacks and chewed by dogs.

The plaintiff’s ophthalmologist testified that the plaintiff sustained a full-thickness corneal laceration as a result of the accident. The Plaintiff underwent emergency surgery to repair the lacerations in his eye and remove the damaged lens, as well as a follow up surgery to implant a special corrective lens. The plaintiff’s ophthalmologist testified that the plaintiff has been left with a permanent loss of visual acuity and peripheral vision and that he continues to experience light sensitivity and glare. The plaintiff will need to undergo further surgery to remove scar tissue and he is at risk for further eye complications, according to his ophthalmologist.

The defendant presented a biomechanical expert who testified that the shard of plastic from the flying disc could not have caused the plaintiff’s injuries, based on the dimensions of the shard and the configuration of the eye injury. The plaintiff countered that this expert’s opinion was based on the erroneous belief that the plaintiff’s injury did not involve a full-thickness corneal laceration. The plaintiff stressed that the treating ophthalmologist, who performed the emergency surgery the night of the injury, testified that the plastic shard fully perforated through the plaintiff’s cornea, traversed the anterior chamber behind it and penetrated the lens.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s actions were not an intended use of the flying disc and, therefore, it had no liability for the accident. The defense also contended that the plaintiff has made a good recovery from his injury and is able to read, drive a motor vehicle and continue all the activities of his daily life.

After a two-day trial, the jury found that the plastic disc was defective and awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages. The case is currently on appeal.

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