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Morgan v. Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division

February 13, 2019

DAVID MORGAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DICK'S SPORTING GOODS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          RICHARD W. STORY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action comes before the Court on Defendant PSE's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim [21]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.

         Background[1]

         I. Factual Background

         This is a product liability action in which Plaintiffs seek to hold Defendant Dick's Sporting Goods (“Dick's”) and Defendant Precision Shooting Equipment, Inc., d/b/a PSE Archery (“PSE”), responsible for injuries their son JM, a minor, sustained in an accident on March 9, 2016, while he was shooting arrows with a bow. JM and his parents purchased the bow and arrows the previous day from a Dick's retail location in Gainesville, Georgia. A store salesperson assisted the Morgans in their purchase by recommending the Bear Archery Apprentice III Compound Bow, fitting the bow to JM, and suggesting PSE Archery Explorer 28" fiberglass arrows, manufactured by Defendant PSE.[2]

         When JM first used his new bow and arrows on March 9, 2016, he shot two brand-new arrows straight out of the package. The first arrow fired without incident. The second, exploded, splintering into pieces in the middle of the shaft. Some splintered fiberglass pieces went into JM's left hand and thumb, requiring immediate removal surgery. Unfortunately, the Doctor was unable to remove all shards of fiberglass. As a result, JM returns periodically for removal procedures as shards work their way up to the top of his skin. The injury has directly impacted JM's quality of life through the continued pain, procedures, and diminished use of his thumb on his dominant hand.

         Plaintiffs maintain they and JM exercised due care at the time of the injury and that the arrows appeared in new condition. They claim the exploding arrow was Defendants' fault and advance a series of apparently alternative reasons the arrow could have exploded.

         The Manufacturing Defect Theory

         One explanation for the exploding arrow is a manufacturing defect. Plaintiffs argue the arrow contained a flaw or defect when it left PSE's control. (Am. Compl., Dkt [15] ¶61.) As evidence for this theory, Plaintiffs point to JM's ability to shoot one arrow without issue, while the second, defective, arrow exploded. (Id. ¶62.) Because both arrows were manufactured together, Plaintiffs argue, it follows that the second arrow deviated from the prototypical product. (Id.) Further, Plaintiffs allege PSE did not adequately communicate a warning to inspect arrows for defects prior to use because the only warning was in “extremely small lettering on the shaft of the arrows, ” stating: “Warning! Inspect arrow for damage before each shot.” (Id. ¶51.)

         The Damaged Arrow Theory

         Another explanation for the exploding arrow is that it left PSE's control in good condition but was damaged before Plaintiffs' purchase. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege Defendant Dick's created “a mechanism for damage” by displaying “the arrows for sale in such a manner that they stuck out in the isle [sic] of the store.” (Id. ¶36.) By sticking out, Plaintiffs argue, the arrows could have been damaged by customers bumping into them, hitting the shelves, or being knocked to the floor. (Id.) Plaintiffs also attribute liability under this theory to Defendant PSE for: 1) failing to instruct Dick's in the proper storage and display of the arrows (Id. ¶38.); 2) failing to warn “that product failure could happen if there was damage to the arrow” (Id. ¶52.); 3) failing to communicate “what damage was acceptable for continued use and what damage was not acceptable” (Id.); 4) failing to warn “that unseen damages or defects could result in failure.” (Id.)

         The Incompatibility Theory

         Finally, Plaintiffs allege that the arrow exploded because fiberglass arrows are not compatible with the compound bow used. (Id. ¶44.) According to Plaintiffs, the PSE arrows and packaging did not warn against using fiberglass arrows with compound bows. (Id.) Further, PSE did not provide Plaintiffs with any individual warning, written or verbal. (Id. ¶48.) Neither did Dick's. (Id.) Plaintiffs maintain that had PSE provided such warning, they would have heeded it and not used the fiberglass arrows with the compound bow. (Id. ¶49.) That said, the compound bow did warn against use with fiberglass arrows.[3] The arrow packaging also stated the arrows are of “durable fiberglass construction.” (Id. ¶45.)

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs first filed a complaint on February 6, 2018 in the Superior Court of Hall County. Subsequently, Defendant Dick's properly removed to this Court on March 8, 2018 with Defendant PSE's consent. On April 6, 2018 Defendant PSE filed a Motion to Dismiss [11]. Plaintiffs properly filed an Amended Complaint [15], mooting PSE's motion [11] and any responsive pleading [16]. (See Order [27].) PSE then filed this Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint ...


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