Jamieson v. Woodward & Lothrop
247 F.2d 23 (D.C. Cir. 1957)

Facts:

  • Marguerite Jamieson bought an elastic exerciser manufactured by Helena Rubinstein, Inc.
  • While she was using the exerciser she suffered a sudden unconsciousness, and although she testified she did not know what happened it appears to be a reasonable inference that the exerciser slipped and struck her in the eye.
    • She was laying on the floor and put the rope under feet, held on to the handles, and apparently the rope slipped off the soles of her feet and hit her in the eye.
  • There were no instructions as to how to operate the device.
  • She sued Helena Rubinstein, Inc. for negligence, including a count for failure to warn.

History:
The District Court granted summary judgment for the defendants.

Issue:
Whether the manufacturer had a duty to warn.

Holding:
No. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • “Where a manufactured article is a simple thing of universally known characteristics, not a device with parts or mechanism, the only danger being not latent but obvious to any possible user, if the article does not break or go awry, but injury occurs through a mishap in normal use, the article reacting in its normal and foreseeable manner, the manufacturer is NOT liable for negligence. If a man drops an iron dumbbell on his foot the manufacturer is not liable.”
  • Here, the court felt that was precisely the case:
    • “The only ‘dangerous condition’ was that a rubber rope is elastic and when stretched will, when released, return to its original length with soem degree of force. Small boys know that fact and fashion slingshots upon the principle. Surely every adult knows that, if an elastic band, whether it be an office rubber band or a rubber rope exerciser, is stretched and one’s hold on it slips, the elastic snaps back.”
  • This case basically says that there’s no duty to warn of obvious or generally known risks.