Pep Boys Denied Summary Judgment for Exploding Battery Package

The US District Court for the District of New Jersey has denied a motion for summary judgment by Pep Boys under a “safe harbor” provision of the New Jersey Product Liability Act.

Plaintiff Alfred Degennaro was injured in 2007 when a Rally “Boost-It” battery pack he bought from Pep Boys exploded in his hands. The product manufacturer, Rally, conceded that the packaging design was defective: the heat-sealed package wasn’t properly ventilated, allowing explosive gases to accumulate.

Pep Boys wasn’t involved in the design, manufacturing, or packaging of the product and had no record of any prior explosions.

Section 2A:58C-9 of the New Jersey Statutes relieves a product seller of strict liability claims upon a filing of an affidavit certifying the correct identity of the product manufacturer. Since Rally was already identified and a party to the suit, Pep Boys moved for summary judgment dismissing the claims against it.

However, the law does not relieve a seller of liability if it “knew or should have known” of the defect or if “was in possession of facts from which a reasonable person would conclude that [it] had or should have had knowledge of the alleged defect.”

The court found that because warnings on the package identified the product as potentially dangerous, combined with internal Pep Boys e-mail from after the accident that might have referred to previous customer complaints, could support a finding that Pep Boys should have known about the packaging defect.

The denial of summary judgment does not mean that Pep Boys was found liable; it only means that the lawsuit against it can proceed.

Product liability claims can arise when a product has a design defect, when it is manufactured in a way that makes it defective, when it is sold for an unsafe use, when it lacks appropriate warning labels or safety instructions, when it is improperly packaged (as in the Degennaro case), or for many other reasons.

If you or a family member have been injured by a defective product, contact the New Jersey Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C.