A Plaintiff claimed she became ill after consuming pre-packaged fruit allegedly contaminated with Listeria. She filed suit in Memphis against the grocery store and the producer of the fruit, claiming violations of the Tennessee Product Liability Act and seeking damages for her personal injuries. Christopher M. Myatt and Jacob D. Strawn of Spicer Rudstrom’s Memphis office represented the grocery store and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment relying on the “seller statute” at Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-106. This statue affords protection to retailers selling products manufactured by others that are claimed to be dangerous or defective. It provides that “no product liability action … shall be maintained or commenced against any seller” unless that seller or retailer “exercised substantial control” over the production of the product, among other atypical exceptions.
Before a 2011 amendment to the statute, a retailer could rely on its protections only if the product came in a “sealed container.” The statutory defense became known as the “sealed container doctrine.” Since 2011, there is no such requirement, thereby affording retailers additional protections for merely selling products produced by others that are claimed to be dangerous or defective.
In ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment, the trial court considered the various exceptions to the “seller statute” and determined that none applied. The grocery store was entitled to the protections of Section 29-28-106 and dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims against it.