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Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth Appellate District, Franklin County

May 26, 2005, Rendered

No. 04AP-855

Opinion

(REGULAR CALENDAR)

KLATT, J.

 [*P1]  Defendant-appellant, ICON Health and Fitness, Inc. ("ICON"), appeals from a judgment rendered in favor of plaintiffs-appellees, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("Nationwide") and Suzette King (collectively referred to as "appellees"), on their design defect claims. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.

 [*P2]  On the night of January 17, 1999, a fire broke out in a house located at 1014 Oregon Avenue, Columbus, Ohio. Wayne and Emily Lloyd ("the Lloyds") owned the house and rented half of the house to Ms. King. The fire allegedly started in a room where King kept a treadmill plugged into an electrical [**2]  outlet. ICON manufactured the treadmill. The Lloyds and Ms. King both sustained property damage as a result of the fire. At the time, Nationwide insured the house under a homeowner's insurance policy purchased by the Lloyds. Nationwide paid the Lloyds' property damage claims and became subrogated to the Lloyds' rights against ICON. Appellees subsequently filed this lawsuit. They both sought recovery from ICON for the property damage caused by the fire. They claimed, in relevant part, that the treadmill's defectively designed power cord caused the fire.

 [*P3]  In their initial disclosure of witnesses, appellees identified their expert witnesses. Those witnesses were Richard D. Dropsey and Charles Henderson, who were to testify concerning the cause and origin of the fire, and Glen Hardin, an electrical engineer, who was to testify concerning the alleged design defect in the electrical power cord. Shortly before trial, however, appellees informed ICON that Mr. Dropsey would be their only expert witness and that he would testify about the cause and origin of the fire as well as the defective design of the power cord. Over ICON's objections, the trial court allowed Mr. Dropsey to testify [**3]  about both the cause of the fire and the alleged design defect in the power cord. 1 Mr. Dropsey opined that the treadmill's power cord was defectively designed and that this design defect caused the fire. He further testified that there was an alternative power cord design available to ICON that would have prevented the fire. Specifically, Mr. Dropsey testified that ICON could have placed a surge protection device in the plug of the power cord. After the presentation of evidence, the case went to the jury only on appellees' design defect claim. 2 The jury found in favor of appellees and awarded them damages. All parties filed post-trial motions. The trial court denied ICON's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or for a new trial and granted appellees' request for prejudgment interest.

 [*P4]  [**4]   ICON appeals, assigning the following errors:

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2005-Ohio-2638 *; 2005 Ohio App. LEXIS 2458 **

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. ICON Health and Fitness, Inc. et al., Defendants-Appellants.

Prior History:  [**1]  APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. (C.P.C. No. 01CVB-01-0541).

CORE TERMS

cord, treadmill, manufactured, feasible, electrical

Torts, Products Liability, Types of Defects, Design Defects, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, General Overview, Elements, Causation, Theories of Liability, Strict Liability, Testimony, Expert Witnesses, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Types of Evidence, De Novo Review, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Directed Verdicts, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence