Michel v. Safariland LLC, et al.

Oct 31, 2017 – United States District Court, San Diego, CA

On October 31, 2017, Yukevich | Cavanaugh achieved a significant victory for Safariland, LLC in the matter of Doyma Vanessa Michel v. United States of America, et al. The United States District Court Southern District of California granted a motion for summary judgment dismissing all claims against Safariland.  

Plaintiff Doyma Vanessa Michel’s claims stemmed from an incident occurring on June 2, 2014, when she attempted to cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Two Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers encountered Michel during pre-primary roving inspection. One officer observed visible signs of nervousness, and the other officer found a large bottle filled with a thick yellowish liquid, hidden in a black sock between the glovebox and the firewall. Michel claimed she did not know what was in the bottle. The officers believed the liquid resembled methamphetamine.

Using Safariland’s Narco Pouch Test 923, officers tested the bottle positive for the properties of methamphetamine. Michel was detained. Her vehicle was thoroughly inspected, and CBP located three more bottles containing the thick yellowish liquid and seven bottles of Tequila hidden throughout her vehicle. All four bottles of the former tested positive for the properties of methamphetamine. The Department of Homeland Security was called, and, upon arrival, Michel was formally arrested, read her rights, and questioned for approximately 90 minutes. During the subsequent investigation, officers located an additional 15 bottles of the same yellowish substance, in a nearby storage locker. 

Michel was arrested and detained for six months before the Drug Enforcement Agency completed its confirmatory testing of  the 19 suspected bottles of methamphetamine that were siezed from Michel's vehicle and nearby storage locker. The DEA lab concluded the samples did not contain a controlled substance. Michel was released.

Michel brought claims against the United States of America and Safariland. Michel’s claims against Safariland were product liability design defect and failure to warn, as well as an unfair competition claim of false advertising.

Safariland moved for summary judgment on all claims. The Safariland Narco Pouch field drug test kits are a product line of kits that allow law enforcement agents and officers to conduct presumptive color tests. The Narco Pouch products have simply taken the presumptive color tests used and approved by government agencies and provided a convenient portable packaging method. The Narco Pouch Test 923  tests for the presence of a particular compound, a secondary amine, that is also present in methamphetamine or MDMA.  

Safariland established that its product correctly identified the presence of two secondary amines in each of the 19 bottles. As for Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim, Safariland made two key arguments: (1) Plaintiff could not prove that the officers’ alleged failure to understand the meaning of presumptive caused her injury: six months of detainment; and (2) the United States of America, particularly Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Agency, are sophisticated intermediaries who know that Safariland’s Narco Pouch Test 923 is a presumptive color test, that such tests are not confirmation of an illicit substance, and that all results must be confirmed by an approved laboratory. The Court found for Safariland on both bases reasoning that the officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff regardless of the positive test result with the Narco Pouch Test 923. The Court also found that the United States was a sophisticated intermediary and that Safariland had no duty to warn of information that is known or should be known by its sophisticated consumers.

Safariland LLC was represented by partner Steven D. Smelser, and associate Bobbie N. Eftekar.