Articles Posted in Product Liability

Plaintiff Wendy Dolin, the wife of the decedent, Stewart Dolin, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago alleging that the death of her husband, Stewart Dolin, was caused by the taking of the generic drug paroxetine, a form of the antidepressant Paxil. Stewart Dolin committed suicide at age 57 on July 15, 2010.

In the lawsuit, it was alleged that the labeling of the drug that was in existence at the time of his death did not warn of the drug’s association with an increased risk of suicidal behavior in adults. It was alleged that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the manufacturer and parent corporation of this drug, had knowledge of a statistically significant 6.7 times greater risk of suicide in adults of all ages. As a matter of fact, it was alleged that the label stated the opposite – that the suicidal risk did not extend beyond the age of 24.

The prescription medication Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride or “Paxil”) is one of the class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

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An Alabama Circuit Court jury signed a verdict in favor of the family of Larry Albritton who was killed in a rollover crash on Oct. 7, 2013.  Albritton was driving a log truck when it overturned. An eyewitness to this incident said the rollover occurred not at a high speed but as though it were happening in slow motion.

The load of logs apparently shifted when the truck rolled over and crashed through the truck’s cabin, killing the driver. The jury determined that the cab guard on this particular truck was defective in design, manufacture and in warnings. This was a truck product liability lawsuit.

The jury also determined that the manufacturer of the cab, Merritt Equipment Co., acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others and in the way it designed the guard, manufactured and provided warnings related to its cab guards and that the cab guard itself did not protect Albritton as it was designed to do. The defendants included Merritt Equipment Co. as well as Pitts Enterprises and Volvo Trucks North America Inc. Pitts and Volvo trucks settled prior to the entry of the verdict. The verdict was entered against Merritt Equipment Co. as the only defendant.

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In 1993, the Luther Village Owners Corp. contacted Ken Bruce to see if he was interested in running a salon in their neighborhood. Bruce took ownership of the salon in 1994 and in 1996 formed Creative Designers, a corporation, which would run the salon. Bruce was president and operator of the salon.

Creative Designers employed all of the hairstylists who worked at the salon as independent contractors on one-year contracts. One of the stylists was the plaintiff, Ghada Hanna, who was hired in 2008.

The salon where Hanna worked was renovated by Luther Village in 2008. A series of “flip-top countertops” were installed, which could be tilted and locked into an upright position to allow increased reach and then be lowered again for counter space. Maintenance and modifications to the salon fixtures, including the countertops, was carried out by Luther Village.

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Joseph Sondag was alleged in this lawsuit to have been exposed to asbestos dust from drywall tape manufactured by Tremco when he worked as a plasterer from 1957 to 1983. In 2007, he was diagnosed with pleural plaques and interstitial fibrosis.

At trial, Sondag’s treating physician, Dr. Al Rossi, testified that these conditions were probably caused by on-the-job exposure to asbestos. However, Dr. Rossi did not diagnose Sondag as suffering any symptoms from this condition.

According to Sondag’s wife, Phyllis, and their daughter, he suffered from shortness of breath. But he was an ex-smoker and was 82 when the case was tried. There was no expert testimony that the pleural plaques and interstitial fibrosis were symptomatic.

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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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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 Chicago jury has decided in favor of table saw manufacturer Ryobi Tools in a case filed by a plaintiff who claimed he was injured by a defective saw.

The plaintiff, Brandon Stollings, was a carpenter who purchased a Ryobi BTS 20R1 in May 2007, a few days before the accident. He claimed in the suit that the saw was defective because it did not include a SawStop sensing device or a European style riving knife.

SawStop inventor Stephen Gass served as an expert witness and testified during the two-day trial. Gass created the sensing device, which causes a saw to “brake” if it detects flesh rather than wood. Gass has petitioned the federal Consumer Protection Safety Commission to require SawStop technology on all new table saws. His petition is still pending before the federal commission.

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DMAA is an ingredient of pre-workout energy boosters. A recent Chicago Tribune article describes DMAA supplements (a/k/a 1, 3-dimethylamylamine or methylhexaneamine) as being marketed as a natural substance that comes from geraniums. But substantial evidence negates that assertion.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now calling on the manufacturers of DMAA to verify the safety of their products. The regulators are saying that DMAA is a pharmaceutical compound marketed as a natural ingredient. This has led to renewed calls for federal regulations for dietary supplements.

Users of the products containing DMAA claim that it brings renewed energy, especially to competitive bodybuilders and athletes.

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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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While not every civil lawsuit requires a party to hire an expert, there are some instances where an expert’s opinion and testimony are vital to the case’s outcome. For example, if a plaintiff is making medical malpractice claims against a doctor or hospital, he or she will likely hire a medical expert to help support those claims. Likewise, in a product liability lawsuit, a party would generally need to hire some sort of expert to help prove that there was in fact a design or manufacturing defect. The vital nature of these experts’ testimony means that if for some reason those experts’ opinions are barred, the plaintiff will have an extremely difficult time proving the defendant’s negligence.

This is exactly what happened in the product liability lawsuit of Raymond Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder, Inc., No. 10-1194 (November 18, 2011). Bielskis filed a lawsuit against Louisville Ladder in which he claimed that its scaffolding design was defective and caused his work injury. In order to prove his claims, Bielskis’s attorneys had hired an engineering expert. After the trial court barred the engineering expert’s testimony, Bielskis filed an appeal in which he asked the court to reinstate his expert’s testimony.

Bielskis arose out of a fall Bielskis had while using a scaffold constructed by Louisville Ladder. Bielskis had originally purchased the scaffold in 1997 while working as an acoustical ceiling carpenter for R.G. Construction. During that time, Bielskis was responsible for providing the equipment and scaffolding for most of his jobs. However, in 2001, Bielskis began working for International Decorators, who generally supplied its workers with scaffolding equipment. As a result, Bielskis rarely used his Louisville Ladder scaffold after switching employers in 2001.

Then in 2005, Bielskis decided to use his Louisville Ladder scaffold on a job. Bielskis inspected the scaffold’s condition before using it; however, not noting any problems, Bielskis determined it was safe to use. But when he placed his weight onto one of the scaffold’s caster stems, the scaffold broke and collapsed. Bielskis fell and injured himself; that scaffolding injury is the subject of the current lawsuit.

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