Articles Posted in Product Defects

On Jan. 17, 2011, Susan Buckel was at Villa Olivia, a ski hill in the far west Chicago suburban town of Bartlett, Ill. She had purchased a ticket to snow tube on a hill, but as she moved to sit down on the tube, a sharp object that was part of the tube implanted itself in the ground and caused her to come to a sudden stop.

While Buckel was stopped, another snow tube struck her from behind and injured her.  On Jan. 4, 2013, Buckel filed a lawsuit against Villa Olivia, Tube Pro Inc. “unknown snow tube manufacturer” and “unknown owners and non-record claimants.” Buckel later voluntarily dismissed Villa Olivia as a party defendant.

In the lawsuit, Buckel alleged that her tube was defective and that this defect caused it to suddenly stop on the hill, endangering her and proximately causing her injuries.  She alleged negligence against Tube Pro, claiming that it “negligently designed, manufactured, distributed and sold the snow tube equipment without appropriate safeguarding and an adequate warning label.”

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In July 2013, ALL Erection & Crane Rental Corp. of Independence, Ohio, leased a crane to White Construction of Clinton, Ind. The crane was a Manitowoc 2250 Crawler Crane.

In the summer of 2012, Kyle Carson was working for White Construction at a wind farm in Indiana where his employer had a contract to build wind turbines.

Carson worked primarily as a crane oiler, providing general maintenance on the crane and serving as the eyes and ears of Joe Dowell, the crane operator. On Sept. 20, 2012, Carson and Dowell were told to move the crane to a wind turbine platform several miles from where the crane started that day.

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James and Vanesha Doran and their daughter, Candice, attended a dinner following Candice’s college graduation ceremony. The dinner was held at Arbor Station Apartments. As James, Vanesha and Candice were standing on the second-floor balcony with Sandra Miles and other guests waiting to enter Candice’s apartment, the landing suddenly collapsed, causing the guests to fall about 20 feet to the pavement below.

James Doran, 43, suffered multiple fractures to both of his legs, including compound fractures to the left tibia and fibula and a fracture of his right femur. He underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery on the tibia and fibula fractures and was hospitalized for nearly a month, including 3 weeks of inpatient rehabilitation. He now walks with a cane. He incurred $156,200 in medical expenses and his future medical expenses are estimated to be about $105,800. Doran was a machinist and was unable to return to his job and is now permanently disabled. His past and future lost earnings are estimated to be more than $900,000.

James’s wife, Vanesha Doran, 43, sustained a right heel fracture, injuries to the right foot resulting in contracture of the middle toes at the joints, a tear to the right medial meniscus (right knee cartilage) and a lumbar herniated disk. She underwent surgeries to repair the meniscus tear and to implant a spinal nerve stimulator after nerve-block injections failed to relieve her lower back pain. She also developed complex regional pain syndrome in her lower back, resulting in chronic, debilitating pain. She now uses a wheelchair. Her past medical expenses totaled about $124,300. Her future medical expenses and life-care costs for what is expected to be a total knee replacement and to replace batteries in the stimulator were said to be estimated at around $4.23 million. She was a legal assistant at the time of the incident and is now permanently disabled. Her lost future earnings are estimated at over $800,000.

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Illinois Tool Works purchased commercial liability policies many years ago from Travelers Casualty Surety Co. and Century Indemnity Co. They were purchased by Illinois Tool Works for the years 1971 through 1987.The policies were designed to have the insurance companies defend Illinois Tool Works against toxic-tort injury complaints that did not allege dates or exposure or injury.

The insurance companies reportedly declined to defend Illinois Tool in thousands of toxic-tort cases in which the plaintiffs alleged that their injuries were caused by exposure to hazardous substances, which included asbestos, benzene and manganese in welding supplies and other products distributed by other companies Illinois Tool started buying in 1993. According to the facts in the case, Illinois Tool did not enter the welding product market until 1993, while the last insurance policy that was issued expired in 1987.

A Cook County judge granted Illinois Tool’s request for summary judgment. On appeal, the tort complaints were characterized this way: Continue reading

A lawsuit was brought on behalf of the plaintiff, Gerardo Solis, alleging negligence and strict liability because his lungs were injured by a synthetic chemical that he used while working in a flavoring company. At the trial court level, the judge entered a directed verdict in favor of Solis on the defendant distributor’s claim that the action was barred by the statute of limitations.

The Solis claim was that his lungs were injured while he worked with diacetyl, a synthetic chemical used in artificial butter flavoring. Solis’s claim was that the defendant BASF Corp. (BASF) and one of the distributors failed to warn of the dangerous product and was negligent in allowing its use by its employees.

After a jury heard this case at trial, it returned a verdict for $32 million in favor of Solis, and BASF appealed. At the core of the appeal was that BASF claimed that the trial court erred by directing a verdict in favor of Solis on BASF’s statute of limitations defense. BASF had argued that there was evidence that Solis was aware of his lung injury and its wrongful cause more than two years before this suit was filed.

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After the collapse of a bridge deck on Route 154 near Sparta, Ill., the general contractor, Keeley & Sons, used a jackhammer to break up the concrete I-beam that allegedly caused the accident.

Three workers were on the bridge deck when it collapsed. The issue in this case was whether there was a duty of the defendant, Keeley & Sons, to preserve evidence. The Illinois Supreme Court held there were insufficient facts to establish a duty on Keeley & Sons based on a voluntary undertaking.

The trial court in St. Clair County, Ill., entered an order granting summary judgment for Keeley & Sons finding that it had no duty to preserve the I-beam after this occurrence. The appellate court had reversed the summary judgment order, but the Supreme Court has now reversed the appellate court and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

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In 2002, the Illinois Central Railroad was sued in the State of Mississippi where plaintiff Walter Fennell lived. The lawsuit alleged that he and others were exposed to asbestos when working for the railroad. After discovery was completed in 2006, the trial court in Mississippi dismissed the case without prejudice. The plaintiff, instead of re-filing in Mississippi, filed the lawsuit in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Ill., in 2009.

Again after discovery had been conducted, the defendant, Illinois Central Railroad, moved the court to dismiss the case under the interstate doctrine of forum non conveniens. The St. Clair County circuit court judge denied that motion and the case was appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, which also affirmed the trial judge’s decision. This occurred in 2010. The case was then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the citizens of St. Clair County should not be asked to bear the burden of this lawsuit because the vast majority of the identified witnesses, treating physicians and some of the plaintiffs were residing in Mississippi and not in Illinois.

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Four teenagers went out to dinner and later had a party in the basement home of the Gordons, the parent home of one of the teenagers. The incident took place in July 2006. Two of the individuals, Hoyle and Peabody, arrived and talked with the Gordon mother, Rachelle. Hoyle smoked one cigarette and believed that the younger Gordon and Peabody each smoked one cigarette too.

Hoyle remembered putting out her own cigarette when finished, and she and her friend Gordon left after midnight. Peabody and Blake left separately.

Keyth Security Systems and Security Associates International, Inc., were responsible for the Gordon’s home fire detection system. That fire detection system failed to detect a fire that started in the basement that night. The fire resulted in the deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning of the Gordon family.

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A recent story by The Baltimore Sun shows that thousands of lives have been saved over the years because Americans now routinely use seat belts and don’t drive drunk. In the meantime, a new crisis has arisen with driving, and that seems to be the use of texting and cell phones. Overdoses of prescription medicine have also affected car safety.

Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research & Policy, co-authored a report released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report brings to the fore the identification of ten important injury prevention measures. Some states have adopted many of these provisions. The report aims at influencing public policy and laws to change the behavior of individuals.

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Manufacturers have an obligation to make their products safe for regular use. However, how far does this obligation extend? Are manufacturers required to make it overly difficult for consumers to modify their products? A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision examines to what extent manufacturers are liable for after-market modifications made to their products; Geronimo Perez v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., et al., Nos. 2-11-0382, 2-11-0486 cons (April 9, 2012).

In January 2008, Geronimo Perez was injured while using a scissor lift machine manufactured by JLG Industries. In his product liability lawsuit, Perez claimed that his injury could have been prevented if there had been a guardrail on the scissor lift machine. What is interesting about Perez is that JLG Industries had installed a guardrail when it designed its scissor lift; however, someone had removed the guardrail after the scissor lift machine left JLG’s factory.

So while JLG Industries had designed its scissor lift machine so that falls like Perez’s would be prevented, someone unconnected to the company had removed that safety feature. Yet Perez alleged that JLG was liable because it should have foreseen that someone would remove that guardrail, thereby causing his subsequent fall. JLG countered that it was not responsible for modifications others made to its product and that its scissor lift machine’s design was not defective.

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