Defective Trailer Stand Results in Amputation
On April 18, 2008, while plaintiff Larry was assisting his co-worker in unloading a 10,000 pound forklift from a trailer manufactured by Doe Trailer Manufacturer, distributed by Doe Distributor, and maintained by plaintiff’s employer, Doe Employer and Does Employer Subsidiary, the jack stand on the trailer failed. As a result of the jack stand failure, the trailer collapsed and fell onto the back of the plaintiff’s right ankle. He suffered a severe crush and degloving injury which led to several surgeries and ultimately a below the knee amputation of his right leg.
Plaintiff alleged product liability for Doe Trailer Manufacturer’s defective design of its trailer which placed the jack stand off to the side of the trailer rather than in the center which provided increased pressure on the juncture weld during normal operation. In addition, plaintiff asserted that the instructions and warnings were inadequate related to the proper procedures for loading and unloading the trailer. Plaintiff also claimed negligence on the part of plaintiff’s employer, Doe Employer/Subsidiary as well as its parent company and leasing subsidiary for the negligent bailment of defective equipment. Plaintiff asserted that the equipment had been previously damaged and improperly inspected such that a defect at the juncture of the weld had developed and gone unnoticed which weakened the structure such that it contributed to the failure at the time of the incident. Plaintiff’s investigation and expert analysis demonstrated that the weld juncture had fracture lines and material failure that preceded the date of the incident. Plaintiff also claimed negligence on the part of plaintiff’s employer related to the negligent maintenance, inspection, and use of the equipment at the time of the incident and asserted that no viable claim for lien or intervention was available to the employer as a result of employer fault.
Defendants asserted that the trailer was not negligently designed, that it was not previously damaged, and that the entire event was caused by the negligence of a co-employee at the time of the incident. Defendants’ summary judgment motions were denied on these issues, as well as the issue that employer parent and sister companies could not assert the shield of the exclusive remedy doctrine of workers’ compensation as a defense to the plaintiff’s claims.
Plaintiff Larry suffered a Grade 3 Lisfranc fracture of his right foot and degloving of his ankle and foot. The crushing injury severely damaged blood vessels and nerves in his foot and in the next seventeen days, Larry underwent five additional surgeries in the hospital. Ultimately, Larry’s right leg was amputated below the knee. Larry requires a lifetime of care for his prosthetic devices. As a result of changes in his activity levels due to his amputation, Larry began to need medication to treat his pre-existing diabetes. In addition, Larry suffers anxiety, depression and irritability as well as intermittent sleep disorder. Warehouseman also claimed he would require pain management, therapeutic care and in the later years of his life, home health care. Larry also claimed past lost wages and lost earning capacity due to his injuries.
The parties’ total settlement amounted to $4,870,370 (including resolution of Workers’ Compensation matter).