Dr. Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson, 37, was allegedly strangled to death in Parkland, Florida by an electronic massager on Christmas eve. According to news reports, this horrific accident occurred when Dr. Ferrari-Gegerson used the electronic massager to releive neck pain after an evening of wrapping gifts.
It is alleged that the neck massager became entangled with a necklace she was wearing. Her husband, Dr. Kenneth Gegerson, a dentist, discovered her laying unconscious on their bedroom floor around 9:00pm that night. He is said to have immediately dialed 911.
As a trial lawyer, my instinct tells me that Dr. Ferrari-Gegerson’s family may have a very good case against the manufacturers of this electronic massager because it was foreseeable that consumers would use the electronic massager on their necks while wearing necklaces.
In fact, I wonder if there have been any other accidental deaths caused by this particular electronic massager.
As a 37 year old radiologist, it is clear that Dr. Ferrari-Gegerson was an intelligent, educated woman. I seriously doubt, in the strongest way possible, that she used the massager in any way that contributed to her own injury. Moreover, I am extremely confidant that she had the brains to properly use the massager as it was intended to be used by the manufacturer.
In my opinion, Dr. Ferrari-Gegerson’s death may have been prevented by a warning label that could have advised her of the risk of strangulation created by using the massager on one’s neck while wearing a necklace. I also wonder if the massager had a design defect or could have been designed to prevent strangulation when a necklace, or other object, gets entangled in the massager’s mechanism.
Bottom line is this: the law requires manufacturers to warn consumers of foreseeable dangers and to produce products that are safe.
That is why hair dryers have warning labels on their cords about the risk of electrocution should a hair dryer become immersed in a bathtub. Since it is foreseeable for a consumer to use a hair dryer while bathing in a tub, manufacturers have a duty to warn of the danger of electrocution should the hair dryer become immersed in water.
On the contrary, a consumer would not foreseeably use a toaster oven in a bathtub. For that reason, toasters do not require warning labels advising of the risk of electrocution posed by a toaster oven becoming immersed in bath water.
In other words, when a consumer’s foreseeable use causes a product’s dangerous propensity to manifest, manufacturers have a duty to warn.
When it comes to Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson’s case, I suspect that the manufacturer either knew or should have known that there was a risk of strangulation when their massager was used on a person’s neck while wearing a necklace. As a result, I suspect that the manufacturer had a duty to warn consumers of the risk posed by such use.
Generally speaking, there are three types of products liability cases. To identify which type or types of products liability theory is applicable to a specific case, an injury lawyer needs to first identify the root cause of the injury. This analysis will lead to one or more conclusions regarding the following questions:
1) Was the injury caused by a manufacturing defect?
2) Was the injury caused by a defective design?
3) Was the injury caused by a failure to warn of dangerous conditions?
When it comes to Dr. Ferrari-Gegerson’s death, my first thought is to see what this electronic massager looks like. Was there something about its specific design that gave it a dangerous propensity? Was this massager more likely than others to cause strangulation because of its design? Was there something about its shape, the power of its motor, or its configuration that made it susceptible to catching someone’s necklace?
Could the massager been designed with a motor cut off when necklaces or other material gets caught in the massager? Could it have been designed with some sort of safety release in the event that hair, necklaces, or scarfs get tangled in the mechanism?
Also, was the manufacturer aware of the massager’s dangerous design? Have hey been sued in the past for this same problem? If so, how long have they known about this dangerous condition? What corrective actions have they taken, if any?
My second thought concerns the manufacturer’s duty to warn, as mentioned previously. Whether Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson would have heeded this warning or not is irrelevant… the risk of injury was hers to assume or avoid. However, as a foreseeable user, who used the massager in a foreseeable fashion, Dr. Ferrari-Gegerson had a right to know there was a danger of strangulation when she used the massager on her neck while wearing a necklace.
Had she been given such a warning, she could have avoided the danger by simply taking off her necklace or by not using the massager. Personally, I am angered by cases like these because her death could have been avoided by such a simple and affordable precaution. What a senseless loss!
Think of it like this… a once cent sticker on the top of the massager could have saved her life.
As the son of a doctor and a nurse, I know how much as doctors hate lawyers. However, I think this is a good example of a situation where a lawyer should get involved. Not only is Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson’s family entitled to compensation for her death, but a lawsuit would force the manufacturer of this massager to make changes to prevent others from being injured or killed in the future.
When it comes to products liability, lawsuits can force positive change for the future. Just think, if it wasn’t for lawsuits, we would never have things like handicap accessible restrooms, child safety tops on medicine, or gas pedals that don’t get stuck on family sedans.
Lets face it, If it wasn’t for our ability to effectuate change through the legal process, manufactures would have no motivation to make products safe. In reality, this motivation is created and maintained by injury lawyers who enforce the rights of victims by filing suit in a court of law.
Because of my family background, I am very aware of the many unscrupulous injury lawyers who have abused the legal process. But that does not mean we are all corrupt. In fact, many of us are motivated by fighting the good fight.
This case is an example of a good fight.
It is clear to me that these massagers are dangerous and require immediate change to protect the public.
Most importantly, my condolences and prayers go out to Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson’s family for their loss. While there is nothing that can be said to make them feel better, I hope they are to find peace one day and ultimately heal from this terrible loss.