3 Million Verdict for Leg Amputation in Forklift Mishap – Price v. Nacco Materials Handling Group, Inc.

A Chicago jury entered a $3 million jury verdict against a forklift manufacturer in an Illinois product liability lawsuit. The Chicago lawsuit arose out of a work injury involving 35 year-old Keith Price and a forklift designed and manufactured by Nacco Materials Handling Group, Inc. As a result of the Chicago work injury, Price was left with an amputated right leg and was unable to work for over five years. Keith Price v. Nacco Materials Handling Group, Inc., Voss Equipment, Inc., 06 L 12915.

The work injury occurred in February 2005 at a Chicago plant of ICI Uniqema, where Price was employed as a forklift operator. On the date of the work injury, Price was using a forklift to load a bag of spent nickel into a nearby hopper. However, as Price attempted to the bag into the hopper, it became caught on another bag. Price then needed to use a chain to readjust the position of the spent nickel bag. These chains were still attached when Price lifted the forks above the bag, at which point the forklift tipped over onto its side.

While Price was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the forklift accident, the seat itself was not properly attached to the forklift. As a result, the seat Price was sitting on rolled forward as the forklift moved. Price’s legs did not remain inside the vehicle and were crushed underneath the forklift. The weight of the large machine caused severe crushing injuries to his right leg, necessitating a below the knee amputation. In addition, Price sustained facial fractures to his jaw and lost four of his teeth.

Price brought a product liability lawsuit against Nacco Materials Handling Group, Inc., which was the manufacturer of the Yale forklift that Price was operating at the time of his work place injury. The Chicago lawsuit alleged that the forklift’s design was defective and was the direct cause of Price’s amputation and injuries. Specifically, Price and his engineering experts pointed to the defective design of the forklift’s hood assembly.

The forklift was designed so that the truck’s seat and seatbelt was mounted to the hood assembly. Evidence presented during the product liability trial suggested that the hood latch which the seatbelts were mounted on was not properly latched at the time of Price’s accident and were the reason why the seat rotated forward during the accident. Price’s engineering experts stated that the forklift should have been designed in a way that did not allow the latch to become disengaged. Had this been done, the latch mechanism would not have failed and the forklift’s hood and seat would have stayed in position.

In response, the defendant manufacturer denied that its forklift was defective. Instead, it offered as an explanation that Price was attempting to jump out of his seat at the time of the accident. Under this theory, it suggested that Price was trying to outrun the forklift, but that it then tipped over and crushed his leg. The defense did not admit any liability for its forklift’s design defect and did not make any offers to settle with Price.

At the close of the trial, two special interrogatories were submitted to the jury. Special interrogatories ask the jury specific fact questions that are deigned to test the consistency of their verdict. The special interrogatories in Price were as follows:

-Was the sole proximate cause of the defendant’s hood latch and hinge mechanisms, in their design, manufacture, or warnings unreasonably dangerous at the time the forklift left the control of the defendant?
-Was the condition of the hood latch and hinge mechanisms, in their design, manufacture or warnings, a proximate cause of the plaintiffs claimed injuries?
The jury answered, “yes,” to both special interrogatories, which responses confirmed their $3.079 verdict against Nacco. The jury award was composed of the following damages:

-$1 million for disfigurement;
-$1 million for pain and suffering;
-$412,333 for present cash value of past and future wage loss;
-$333,333 loss of normal life;
-$333,333 for past and future medical expenses.

While the jury award of $3 million was less than half of the $8-9 million verdict Price’s attorney had requested, it still represented a positive outcome for the plaintiff following his work injury.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois work injuries and Chicago product liability matters for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Bridgeview, Harwood Heights, Alsip, and Schaumburg.

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