Herod v. PDC et al.

Aug 31, 2017 – Alameda Superior Courthouse, Alameda, CA

Yukevich | Cavanaugh achieved a significant victory for Parfums De Coeur, LTD. Corporation on Friday, August 31, 2017, when Hon. Julia Spain (Alameda County) granted PDC’s motion for summary judgment against plaintiff Amber Herod, dismissing all claims against the cosmetics corporation.  Plaintiff sought over $20 million from supply chain defendants, including PDC, seeking to impose liability following her use of Calgon “Morning Glory” Fragrance Body Mist, marketed and distributed by PDC.

Plaintiff alleged that on June 6, 2014, she was sitting in her wheelchair smoking a cigarette when she dropped her cigarette igniting her clothing on fire.   Plaintiff’s liability theory was that the body spray was made with denatured alcohol, which resulted in “invisible flames” when it ignited. Plaintiff alleged that the “invisible flames” delayed fire extinguishment and contributed to her injuries.  Plaintiff also alleged that the warning on the Body Mist was inadequate and failed to warn of an “invisible flame.”

Plaintiff sustained severe injuries, including burns covering 36% of her body, surgical removal of both breasts, and permanent scarring and disfigurement of her face and upper body. She was hospitalized in a burn treatment center for eleven months.  Plaintiff’s gross past claimed medical expenses were $5.5 million.

PDC moved for Summary Judgment when Yukevich Cavanaugh’s investigation revealed that Plaintiff had long history of psychiatric issues and that she likely used the Body Mist as an accelerant in a failed suicide attempt. 

The Court agreed with PDC and found that using an accelerant to aid an attempt to commit suicide by self-immolation constitutes a nonforeseeable use or misuse of the product, and a supervening cause of Plaintiff’s injuries, as a matter of law.  The Court further rejected Plaintiff’s position that the fire could have been an accident and that PDC should have warned about an “invisible flame” for which there was no evidence.