A products liability lawsuit was recently filed in Colorado against Parrot SA, a French-based wireless products manufacturer that designs and manufactures drones ranging from toys to commercial-grade Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). But this lawsuit does not involve a large or highly complex UAS. Instead, this case centers on a lightweight toy drone that fits in the palm of a child’s hand.
The lawsuit arises from an accident in 2014 on Christmas Day. The plaintiffs allege that they purchased a Parrot Rolling Spider, an ultra-compact mini-drone designed to fly both indoors and outdoors. The Rolling Spider is controlled from the operator’s smartphone and is a basic quadcopter design. And like many UAS quadcopter designs, the Rolling Spider does not possess blade guards.
The suit alleges that the plaintiffs’ son was operating the drone “in an appropriate and anticipated manner in the home when the drone’s unguarded blade came into contact with [the father’s] left eye.” The father apparently required immediate surgery to repair a corneal laceration.
Like most products liability actions, plaintiffs allege that Parrot is strictly liable for injuries caused due to Parrot’s alleged design defects. Generally speaking, in products liability actions, most states maintain a strict liability standard of care (as opposed to negligence). Thus, unlike a negligence lawsuit where a plaintiff must show the manufacturer had a duty to exercise reasonable care and breached that duty, in a strict liability action, a plaintiff does not need to show fault. So long as the plaintiff can show the product was somehow defective, the manufacturer is liable.
This begs the question: what exactly is the defect here? The suit lists a number of alleged defects, including the failure to utilize safer blades, adequate software and shut-off features, and adequate blade guards.
This will be an interesting case to watch, assuming it survives a motion to dismiss. The complaint is arguably devoid of enough specificity regarding the actual design defects contained within the Rolling Spider. One thing is certain: this isn’t the first UAS products liability lawsuit – nor will it be the last.
The case is Richard T. Jacky and Tamsin Jacky v. Parrot, S.A. et al., Denver District Court, 2017CVCV31101.