On May 13, 2020 an appellate court covering Kings County overruled a Brooklyn trial court that allowed the manufacturer of a Warm Mist Humidifier to sue the parents of a 10 month old baby girl whose foot was badly burned by its product. The manufacture claimed that the parents wrongful acts were an intervening cause totally absolving them from any liability. The father had placed the humidifier on the floor in the living room and left the home with an older child. While crawling in the living room with her mother present, the baby's hand knocked into the water tank of the humidifier causing it to tip over and scald her foot. She suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns which required a skin graft from her buttock to her right foot. It was claimed that the baby suffered permanent nerve and muscle damage with permanent scarring of the foot and the graft site.Just before trial and before a decision was issued on an appeal, the manufacturer agreed to settle for $500,000.
The Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn had refused to dismiss the manufacturer's suit against the child's parents for negligently supervising their baby. The Judge was wrong, but allowing the manufacturer to blame the parents raised the possibility that a jury might place all of the blame on the parents which would eliminate the child's recovery. A pre-trial mediation was unsuccessful when the manufacturer offered only $100,000 to settle. However, the manufacturer increased its offer to $500,000 one day before oral arguments were scheduled before the appellate court and 5 days before jury selection. Despite the settlement, the appellate court explained why the Kings County Supreme Court was wrong for allowing the manufacturer to blame the parents for their child's injuries: "There is no legally cognizable cause of action to recover damages for injuries suffered by a minor child against his or her parent for negligent supervision." See General Obligations Law Section 3-111. The only exception for this well settled rule of law is when the parent entrusts the child with a "dangerous instrumentality" such as a car or weapon involved in an accident. Martinez v Kaz USA, Inc., 2020 NY Slip Op 02775