Donald Mathews, a Stockton State College senior living on campus, woke up in the middle of an October 11, 1999, nap and fell out of bed, injuring himself. For this, he blamed the manufacturer of his loft bed for failing to warn that people might hurt themselves by falling out of bed. A jury agreed, and awarded $179,001.
(Because Mathews claimed that he fell out of bed because he was startled, it’s not clear how a warning would have helped, unless he was seeking an audible recording regularly repeating, much like airport moving walkways, “Caution! The bed is above the ground!” Of course, this might interfere with sleep, but wakefulness is watchfulness.)
A unanimous appellate state court reversed on the obvious grounds that the danger was open and obvious and didn’t require a warning (the same grounds on which the McDonald’s coffee case should have been thrown out), but plaintiffs’ lawyer Gary Piserchia threatens an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. (Robert Schwaneberg, “Suit over loft bed falls short”, Newark Star-Ledger, Aug. 16, via Lattman).