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Product Liability - Construction, Equipment and Related Litigation

Goodell DeVries Obtains Defense Verdict in Design Defect Case

After a two week trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, PA, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr., Kali A. Enyeart, and Ryan J. Sullivan obtained a defense verdict in favor of Crown Equipment Corporation, a leading manufacturer of material handling equipment.  In Kovacevich v. Crown Equipment Corporation, Plaintiff sustained serious injuries after being struck by a Crown pallet jack operated by his co-employee.  Plaintiff claimed the pallet truck was defectively designed and was not equipped with necessary safety features.  The jury deliberated for less than half an hour before returning a full defense verdict.

 

Goodell DeVries Obtains Summary Judgment in Chemical Exposure Case

On January 5, 2016, in Martin v. Crown Equipment Corporation, et al., Judge Marvin H. Shoob of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta Division) granted motions to exclude expert testimony and, consequently, a motion for summary judgment filed by Thomas J. Cullen, Jr., Ericka L. Downie, and John D. Maxa on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation.  Plaintiffs sought damages based on injuries allegedly caused by exposure to chemicals in spray paint manufactured for Crown.  Plaintiffs alleged that the use of the spray paint during planned maintenance of Crown’s material handling equipment caused a rare form of acute leukemia.  Plaintiffs offered two causation experts.  Judge Shoob excluded the opinions of both of Plaintiffs’ causation experts, citing their lack of qualifications and failure to rely upon a sufficient factual foundation and reliable methodology.  Accordingly, Judge Shoob awarded summary judgment and costs to Crown.

 

Crown Equipment Corporation Prevails in Product Liability Trial

Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Kali A. Enyeart obtained a defense verdict in favor of Crown Equipment Corporation, a leading manufacturer of material handling equipment.  InHernandez v. Crown Equipment Corporation, Plaintiff Jose Hernandez sustained a leg amputation injury while operating a Crown stand-up rider forklift.  Plaintiff and his wife brought claims for design defect and loss of consortium against Crown.  The jury deliberated for two hours before returning a full defense verdict.  The trial spanned two weeks in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.   

 

Goodell DeVries Excludes Expert Testimony and Obtains Summary Judgment for Forklift Manufacturer

On December 2, 2014, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County granted a motion to exclude expert testimony under New Jersey Rule of Evidence 702 and then a summary judgment motion filed by Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Andrew W. Croner on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation.  In Ixcopal v. Crown Equipment Corporation, Plaintiff sought damages associated with a serious leg injury sustained while operating a Crown stand-up rider forklift.  Plaintiff proffered a mechanical engineer to offer the theory that the forklift was defective because it failed to incorporate any one of four alternative designs he proposed and failed to provide adequate warnings.  Following an evidentiary hearing, Judge Douglas H. Hurd granted Crown’s motion to exclude the testimony of the mechanical engineer, holding that he was not qualified to render the proffered opinions and that his opinions amounted to unreliable “net opinion” under New Jersey law.  Based on that ruling and the resultant absence of expert testimony for Plaintiff, Judge Hurd granted summary judgment in Crown’s favor.

 

Goodell DeVries Recovers High Six-Figure Settlement On Behalf Of Local Construction Company 

George S. Mahaffey Jr. and Craig S. Brodsky successfully litigated a breach of contract case against a subcontractor on behalf of a large, local construction company. The construction company had a contract to perform services at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Unfortunately, due to the actions of the construction company’s subcontractors, a subcontractor employee died in an accident on the job site. A stop work order was issued and the construction company suffered significant damages, both direct and in terms of lost contracts and injury to reputation. The construction company filed suit against the subcontractors in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Meltech v. Beech Grove Construction, et al., No. 8:11-cv-00160, and a settlement was recovered on behalf of the construction company.

 

Goodell DeVries Obtains Daubert Ruling and Summary Judgment for Forklift Manufacturer

On May 24, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted a Daubert motion and then a summary judgment motion filed by Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Kali A. Enyeart on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation.  In Dymnioski v. Crown Equipment Corporation, Plaintiffs sought damages associated with a serious leg injury sustained while operating a Crown stand-up rider forklift.  Plaintiffs proffered a mechanical engineer to offer the theory that the forklift was defective because of its open operator compartment design and because Crown did not include a prevention algorithm in the design of the brakes.  United States District Judge Anne E. Thompson granted the Daubert motion, holding that the expert was not qualified to render the opinions he proffered, and that his testimony was unreliable.  Based on that ruling and the resultant absence of expert testimony for Plaintiff, Judge Thompson granted summary judgment.

 

Goodell DeVries Obtains Defense Verdict for Forklift Manufacturer

In April of 2013, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Kali A. Enyeart obtained a defense verdict in favor of Crown Equipment Corporation, one of the largest forklift manufacturers in the world.  In Congilaro v. Crown Equipment Corporation, Plaintiffs brought claims for negligence, design defect, and loss of consortium against Crown.  Plaintiff Jason Congilaro had sustained a leg amputation injury while operating a Crown stand-up rider forklift.  After deliberating for an hour and a half, the jury returned a full defense verdict.  The jury concluded that the forklift was not defective in design and that Crown was not negligent in the design or manufacture of the forklift.  The trial spanned two weeks in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.

 

Goodell DeVries Obtains Summary Judgment in Product Liability Lawsuit  

In July of 2010, Thomas M. Goss and George S. Mahaffey, Jr. obtained summary judgment for their client, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., in the product liability lawsuit Harzall v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc.. The case was pending in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

 

Goodell DeVries Obtains Defense Verdict in Florida for Leading Manufacturer of Material Handling Equipment

In December of 2009, in the third such victory in less than a year and the fifth victory in the last two years, Goodell DeVries attorneys, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Renee N. Sewchand, successfully defended Crown Equipment Corporation against product liability design defect claims. Erik and Beatrice Santos brought suit in federal court in Florida under three theories of liability - strict liability design defect, negligence, and failure to warn. They sought both compensatory and punitive damages for a severe crush injury Mr. Santos sustained while operating a piece of industrial equipment manufactured by Crown; said injury led to a full above-knee amputation of Mr. Santos’s left leg.  For the first time under Florida law, it was found that crashworthiness, or enhanced injury, principles apply in a products case involving material handling equipment. Accordingly, the jury was prohibited from considering any evidence of negligence or wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Santos or any other party besides Crown. The Honorable Daniel T.K. Hurley, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, allowed both liability issues and punitive damages to be decided by the eight-person jury. The Goodell DeVries attorneys presented statistical analysis, biodynamic testing, and expert testimony from mechanical and biomechanical engineers to establish the reasonableness of Crown’s design and conduct.  After a trial lasting nearly one month, the jury deliberated for just four hours before unanimously reaching a full defense verdict.

 

Goodell DeVries Successfully Defends a Material Handling Equipment Manufacturer against Design Defect Claims in West Virginia State Court

In February of 2009, Goodell DeVries attorneys Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Renee N. Sewchand obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation in state court in Charleston, West Virginia, before the Honorable Tod Kaufman.  Through his counsel, John Cady of Missouri and John Cooper of West Virginia, the plaintiff Jeremiah “Bart” Morris sought compensatory and punitive damages for a severe crush injury he sustained to his left foot in a workplace accident, resulting in a below-knee amputation. Bringing suit under three theories of liability – strict liability product defect, negligence, and breach of implied warranty – Morris claimed that the design of the stand-up rider forklift he was operating was defective and that it enhanced the injury he sustained during the accident. The Goodell DeVries attorneys presented statistical comparative risk analysis, biodynamic testing, and testimony from mechanical and biomechanical engineers to establish the reasonableness of Crown’s open operator compartment design.  After more than two weeks of trial, the jury deliberated for less than one hour before unanimously reaching a full defense verdict.

 

Goodell DeVries Secures Defense Verdict in New York for Forklift Manufacturer

In November of 2008, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Constantine J. Themelis obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Suffolk County.  In this case, Hutchinson, et al. v. Crown Equipment Corporation, et al., Anthony and Denise Hutchinson sought compensatory damages on one count each of  strict liability product defect, negligence and breach of implied warranty for severe crush injuries Hutchinson sustained to his left leg, knee and back in a workplace accident.  Plaintiff was totally disabled for a period of years and claimed to have permanent disability allowing only 3-4 hours of productive daily work capacity in the future.  Plaintiffs’ claims of defect included the alleged failure to fully enclose the operator compartment and the alleged failure to employ a second brake switch creating redundancy in the safety system of a Crown stand-up rider forklift. Crown presented expert testimony from mechanical and biomechanical engineers establishing the safety of the operator compartment design as well as the fail-safe braking system.  Crown also presented expert testimony from a statistician to provide comparative analysis establishing the safety of the forklift.  After nearly five weeks of trial, the jury deliberated for less than one and a half hours before unanimously reaching a full defense verdict on both the strict liability and breach of implied warranty causes of action.

 

Goodell DeVries Successfully Defends a Leading Manufacturer of Material Handling Equipment Against Design Defect Claims

In May of 2008, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Renee N. Sewchand obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation in Springfield, Missouri, before the Honorable Gary A. Fenner of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.  Through their counsel, Steve Garner and Chandler Gregg at Strong-Garner-Bauer, P.C., the plaintiff Darin and Denise Martin sought compensatory and punitive damages on one count each of strict liability product defect and negligence for a severe crush injury Martin sustained to his right leg and knee in a workplace accident. Plaintiffs claimed that the design of the stand-up rider forklift was defective and that it enhanced the injury Martin sustained during the accident. Plaintiffs proffered the alternate design theory that stand-up rider forklifts should be fully enclosed with latched operator compartment doors to protect lower appendages in hit fixed object impacts. Crown presented biodynamic testing, medical evidence, and testimony from mechanical and biomechanical engineers to establish the reasonableness of Crown’s open operator compartment design.  After nearly two weeks of evidence, the jury deliberated for less than one and a half hours before unanimously reaching a full defense verdict. The jury entered a verdict in favor of Crown on the product defect claim, and found Crown 0% at fault on the negligence claim.

 

Goodell DeVries Secures Verdict in New York for Forklift Manufacturer

 On January 23, 2008, Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Constantine J. Themelis obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation after an eight-day, bi-furcated jury trial on liability issues in the Supreme Court of New York in the County of Nassau. In this case, Thone v. Crown Equipment Corporation, plaintiff alleged, due to design defects of a Crown stand-up rider forklift, he suffered an amputation injury to his left leg. Plaintiff’s claims of defect included the alleged failure to fully enclose the operator compartment and the alleged failure to employ a second brake switch creating redundancy in the safety system. Crown presented expert testimony from mechanical and biomechanical engineers establishing the safety of the operator compartment design as well as the fail-safe braking system.  After only 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury concluded that the forklift was not defective as alleged by the plaintiff. The jury did not reach the comparative fault question.

 

Manufacturer of Water Heater Not Liable for Multiple Plaintiff's Alleged Injuries

From 1993 to 1998, Goodell DeVries attorney, E. Charles Dann, Jr., represented Robertshaw Controls Co. in a series of cases. Covering five jurisdictions, Mr. Dann sucessfully obtained defense verdicts or summary judgment in favor of Robertshaw, a manufacturer of natural gas water heater controls. The cases involved tap water scald injuries.

 

Goodell DeVries Obtains Judgment in Favor of BIC

In 1994, in Eck v. BIC Corp., before the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Goodell DeVries attorney E. Charles Dann, Jr., secured judgment in favor of BIC at the close of plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff alleged he sustained serious burns due to the malfunction of a disposable butane lighter.

 

Goodell DeVries Wins Fourth Circuit Appeal on Behalf of Seller of Telephone Equipment Against Breach of Warranty Claims

In 1992, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant on claims alleging breach of warranty and breach of contract in the sale of computerized telephone switching equipment.  See Dowty Communications, Inc. v. Novatel Computer Systems Corp., 817 F. Supp. 581 (D. Md. 1992), aff’d, Cray Communications, Inc. v. Novatel Computer Systems Corp., 33 F.3d 390 (4th Cir. 1994). Thomas M. Goss assisted in obtaining the summary judgment and in arguing the case before the Fourth Circuit.

 

Goodell DeVries Secures Victory for Chemical Suppliers Against Failure To Warn Allegations

In one of several "sophisticated user" cases in which Goodell DeVries' clients have prevailed, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of chemical suppliers, holding that the bulk supplier/sophisticated user defense foreclosed liability for failure to warn of alleged defects in expandable polystyrene insulation panels. Sara Lee Corp. v. Homasote Co., 719 F. Supp. 417 (D.Md.1989). David W. Allen and Linda S. Woolf assisted in the defense.