When the minor plaintiff, a two-year-old girl, developed symptoms of ordinary congestion, her parents took her to her primary care doctor who recommended the use of a warm steam vaporizer. The parents purchased the defendant’s vaporizer which contained warnings to keep the apparatus away from children. Notwithstanding this fact, the parents placed the vaporizer on the child’s floor at bedtime. The unit was equipped with a glowing orange light that, the defendant advertised, promoted “safety.” The child unexpectedly woke in the middle of the night to notice a glowing orange orb on her floor. When she approached closely to investigate, the steam scalded her face. She was left with a visible and permanent scar under her eye.
The plaintiff’s expert tested the unit and opined that it emitted an exceedingly hot plume of steam which can disfigure upon only “momentary contact.” The expert also noted that the steam exhausted by the vaporizer should not have exceeded 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The unit should also have been equipped with a longer and/or baffled steam path to the steam outlet of the vaporizer and/or provided a protective steam guard around the steam plume which would physically prevent contact with the high-temperature portions of the steam plume. The defendants asserted that, if used properly, the unit was, in fact, safe and that the parents’ conduct prevented the plaintiff from proving proximate cause.
The case endured a failed mediation which yielded a “final offer” of only $125,000. It ultimately settled with the assistance of a new mediator.