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Florida Jury Awards $390,000 Over Defective Prison-Produced Chair

A Pinellas County (Florida) jury
found that an office chair assembled by the Florida DOC's prison industries was defective, and the proximate cause of a state office worker's injuries. The jury awarded the woman $390,000 in damages; however, the recovery was capped at $100,000 by Florida's Tort Claims Act.

This case began in 1992 when a 33-year employee in the Jacksonville workers' compensation office suffered sprain and strain injuries to her lumbar spinal region when an office chair assembled by Prison Rehabilitative Industries & Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE) collapsed under her weight. Although the woman's weight was not indicated, expert testimony revealed that a defective weld by a nonparty subcontractor was responsible for the catastrophic failure of the chair.

In its defense, PRIDE argued that the inadequate weld was not visually apparent, and that its prisoner workers were not capable of detecting bad welds. PRIDE further argued that it was the duty of the company that actually performed the welds to ferret out such defects.

In finding for the plaintiff, the jury concluded that PRIDE, a nonprofit corporation that employs Florida state prisoners, was responsible for inspecting and testing the products it sells to ensure that defective commodities do not reach the marketplace. The total $390,000 damage award was partitioned between PRIDE and the nonparty company that performed the welds, 70-30% respectively. PRIDE's liability was ultimately capped at $100,000 under the state's Tort Claims Act. See: Mongal v. Prison Rehabilitative Industries, Case No. 97-001702-CI-015 (Fla. 6th Cir. Ct. 2002). g

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Related legal case

Mongal v. Prison Rehabilitative Industries