Essay on Sears Failure Case Study

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Type of Action:

The case is an appeal that was decided by a jury. The jury verdicts decided that the defendants must pay $1.8 million. The case was a product liability suit against Sears Roebuck & Co. and Pittway Corporation

Facts of the Case:

Albin Laaperi bought a smoke detector from Sears. The detector was made by Pittway Corporation. The smoke detector worked through an electrical circuit. Laaperi installed the smoke detector upstairs. The fire began on the 27th of December. Laaperi’s three boys were upstairs where the smoke detector was. They were killed in the fire. Laaperi’s daughter, who was in the other bedroom, had severe burns but survived. The testimony given in the trial was that the detector never made a sound during the fire. The reason for the fire was because of a short circuit in an electrical wire that was in the Laaperi’s son's room. The two electrical cords in the bedrooms provide different services. One is for electricity to the power outlets and the other is for powering lights. The smoke detector’s power was coming through the power outlets. This was shorted with the fire. Therefore, the smoke detector had no way of receiving power when the fire started. After the fire, the detector was tested and was still working. This means the smoke detector itself still worked. Unfortunately, it was not receiving power during the fire, so, therefore, it never went off. Laaperi wanted “negligent design, negligent manufacture, breach of warranty, and negligent failure to warn of inherent dangers”. Pg. 436. The verdicts showed that they were in favor of Sears and Pittway Corporation, besides the failure to warn Laaperi. The jury is all in favor of all four actions brought forth by Laaperi of failure to warn. The Jury awarded the amount of $350,000 to Laaperi because of the deaths of the three sons. Also awarded $750,000 to Janet Laaperi. The court denied the defendant's motions. The motions included a directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The defendants then appealed the decision made by the court.

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Contentions of the Parties

SEARS ROEBUCK & CO contends that the district court was wrong for denying the motions for a directed verdict. They also say it is wrong for the district court to deny the motion for judgment n.o.v.

LAAPERI contends that the failure to warn theory is what the plaintiff uses for the reason for the death of his sons and the severe injuries of his daughter. Laaperi was not aware of the potential danger that could happen if the short circuit was to catch on fire.

ISSUE: Does Sears Roebuck and Pittway Corporation have the duty to warn Laaperi about the potential dangers of the smoke detector’s short circuits?


Yes, the court ruled in favor of Laaperi, and his position as the manager of the estates of his three sons is affirmed. As for the action of Janet Laaperi, the court abandoned the original decision made. The reason for this is to have a new trial for the issue of issue of damages.


The evidence showed that if Laaperi had been warned of such damages he would have made other plans to protect his family. The lack of warning from Sears Roebuck caused a lot of danger for Laaperi. If Laaperi had been warned about the fire detector potentially not working in an electrical outage. He could have made plans like a battery-powered detector, or he could have rewired the detector to make it safer for his family.

Rule of Law:

The court decided in the review of the denial of a motion for directed verdict and judgment n.o.v would be to who is the most favorable. The court would decide who has the most evidence on their side. The court decided that the district court was not wrong in denying the motions made by the defendants. The jury went with the testimonies that were given by Laaperi in colloquy. The jury also went with other evidence, and the final say that if Laaperi had had a warning of such dangers he would have gone with different plans to keep his family safe from harm.

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Essay on Sears Failure Case Study. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
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