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Justices rule in favor of cup manufacturers

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The manufacturer defendants in a suit claiming defects in their measuring cup caused the death of a 9-year-old boy are entitled to summary judgment, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed today. The undisputed evidence in the case showed if there was an overdose of codeine in the boy's bloodstream, it wasn't caused by any alleged defects in the cup itself.

In Jim and Jill Kovach, individually and on behalf of deceased minor child Matthew Kovach v. Caligor Midwest, et al., No. 49S04-0902-CV-88, the high court found the causation issue in the case dispositive as to all causes of action. The Kovaches asserted four claims against Caligor Midwest and other manufactures of the medicine cup under the Indiana Product Liability Act and the Uniform Commercial Code. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the defendants, holding genuine issues of fact precluded summary judgment on the claims. Justice Theodore Boehm noted that the Supreme Court has yet to address whether the PLA preempts warranty-based theories of recovery for physical harm, but decided not to resolve that issue because it was only raised by amici. The high court also declined to address several collateral issues the parties raised on appeal.

The parents claimed if the medicine cup had been better suited as a precision measuring device or had contained a warning that it wasn't suitable for precision measurement, their son wouldn't have received an overdose. The nurse that gave him the codeine testified she gave him the 15mL prescribed by filling the cup up halfway; Jim Kovach argued he saw the cup filled all the way up to the 30 mL level.

An autopsy showed Matthew had more than twice the recommended therapeutic level of the drug in his system, and the undisputed evidence in the case shows if there was an overdose, it wasn't caused by an imprecise measurement of the drug attributable to less than readily discernable marks, wrote the justice.

"Rather, if the codeine was the cause of Matthew's death, it was due to an erroneous double dosage of 30 mL of codeine when Matthew was supposed to receive 15 mL. The accident therefore cannot be attributed to any alleged defects in the cup itself," he wrote.

The justices also declined to address whether a failure to warn against the cup's use for precision measurement was required because even if it had been given, it wouldn't have prevented the overdose, Justice Boehm wrote.

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