Bourne v. Marty Gilman, Inc.
452 F.3d 632 (7th Cir. 2006)

Facts:

  • When Ball State student Andrew Bourne rushed onto a football field with a crowd that tore down a goalpost, the post fell on his back and rendered him paraplegic.
  • He and his parents sued Gilman Gear, manufacturer of the post, in diversity under Indiana law arguing that the post was defective and unreasonably dangerous because (1) it was foreseeable that fans will tear down goalposts, (2) the average fan would not understand the extent of the risk, and (3) there are alternative designs that would reduce that risk.
    • Alternatives: Double offset gooseneck, hinged, and fan resistant (made of steel instead of aluminum).

History:
The district court granted summary judgment for Gilman Gear because the risk was obvious.

Issue:
Whether the goalpost was 1) in a defective condition 2) unreasonably dangerous to any user or consumer.

Holding:
No. Affirmed.

Reasoning:
(1) The court wanted a B < PL (Hand) analysis but instead, plaintiffs’ expert, Adams, did not provide a basis on which a finder of fact could evaluate the frequency of injuries caused by goalposts, or calculate the extent to which risk would actually be reduced by the alternative designs, or justify the cost of those alternatives relative to the benefits of aluminum posts.
(2) “Unreasonably dangerous” means “any situation in which the use of a product exposes the user or consumer to a risk of physical harm to an extent beyond that contemplated by the ordinary consumer who purchases the product with the ordinary knowledge about the product’s characteristics common to the community of consumers.”

  • Obviousness remains a relevant inquiry because the question of what is unreasonably dangerous depends upon the reasonable expectations of consumers and expected uses.
  • Here, the court held that bringing down a goalpost is so inherently dangerous that Bourne could not engage in the activity and then blame the manufacturer.