While claims and lawsuits over the past four decades have caused improvements in safety design of products we live with every day, too many Americans are still unnecessarily maimed or killed by products that have unsafe designs, or defects from the manufacturing process. Like medical negligence cases, product liability cases require expert witnesses whose time and expertise can be very expensive. Prompt investigation, evidence preservation and working with qualified experts can be crucial to success.
Settlement: Confidential. Our client was an ambitious young high schooler in a small western Minnesota town who operated his own solo lawn mowing business in the summer. He was mowing the wet grass in the lawn of a neighbor when the self-propelled MTD brand lawn mower plugged up in wet grass. As he had done hundreds of times, he released the lever at the handle, which had always shut off the blade, as it was designed to do. However, unknown to our client, this time the cable had snapped leading to the blade. The wet grass muffled or slowed the blade until he reached his hand in to clean out the wet grass again. He suffered amputations of two fingers. Our team found and retained an expert who testified about the defective design of the cable route. The lawyers and experts for MTD countered with the claim that our client’s father “jerryrigged” the cable and handle before the incident, which the family denied. They also of course claimed negligence against our client.
Settlement: $207,500. Our client was an experienced operator of a large concrete pump truck manufactured by the German corporation Schwing, G.M.B.H. He was working on a skyscraper construction in downtown Minneapolis. As he had done hundreds of times before, he was cleaning out the pump valves at the end of his shift when he was shocked to have a valve slam shut, badly smashing his hand. Schwing blamed our client for negligence and initially refused to offer any settlement. Our lawsuit document discovery and depositions revealed that Schwing had provided a safety mechanism on its concrete pumping rigs in Europe that they failed to provide on this rig being used by our client in Minnesota, leading to his settlement.
Settlement: Very substantial and confidential. Client was a bubbly, athletic and musical high school student from a small town in Montana. She was driving the family’s compact car with her mother on a freeway in Minnesota en route to a relative’s home in Wisconsin for a visit. A tire accidently became detatched from a car on a freeway lane going the opposite direction from them. The tire crossed the center grass median, bounced and slammed down at the line of the roof and front windshield on their family’s compact car. The impact shattered client’s spine at her neck, plunging her into permanent paraplegia. The defendant had manufactured both cars, and denied any responsibility. Our investigations and lawsuit document and depositions discovery revealed that there was a safer design for the wheel tightening on the oncoming car that had lost the tire, at the time it was designed and manufactured, and a much stronger, safer design, that was still relatively inexpensive, for the roof of the compact car that our client was driving, which was manufactured in Germany.