Coughlin Delivers Litigation Victories in Two Product Liability Cases

George P. Coughlin recorded two major litigation victories in June in two product liability cases – one in the Circuit Court of Clay County, Missouri and the other in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri.

The Clay County case was a wrongful death product liability suit against Dysart Taylor client Genie Industries, Inc.  It is a subsidiary of Terex Corporation.  Genie manufactures and sells scissors lifts, boom lifts and aerial work platforms.  The decedent was a painter who was operating a 1998 Genie scissor lift.  The lift tipped over while its operating platform was fully-elevated, and it was on a parking lot with a slope exceeding 6 degrees.

The decedent’s heirs alleged that the lift was defective because it supposedly did not have a drive cut-out interlock, which was standard equipment on Genie lifts sold in Europe in 1998.  Such an interlock prevents the lift from moving when the work platform is elevated and the lift is on a surface with a slope exceeding 2 degrees.

Coughlin and his client investigated the accident and determined that the lift had been retrofitted with the drive cut-out interlock prior to the accident, but that it had been disabled by the decedent’s employer.  Coughlin’s engineering expert testified in his deposition that if the interlock had not been disabled the accident would not have occurred.  Eventually, Coughlin convinced plaintiffs’ counsel to dismiss Genie and proceed against the president of the company that employed the decedent.

The Jackson County case was a personal injury product liability suit against Dysart Taylor client Terex Utilities, Inc.  At the time of Coughlin’s engagement, this company had been purchased by Konecranes, a Finnish conglomerate that manufactures and services cranes and other lifting equipment.  The plaintiff was an employee of a glass-fabrication company in Olathe, Kansas.

The employee was injured when the load he was handling with a bridge crane became unhooked and fell on him, causing him serious injury.  The product alleged to be defective was the load hook and its safety latch.  The bridge crane, along with the load hook and safety latch, had been sold to plaintiff’s employer in 2000 by Crane America Services, Inc.  However, Crane America did not manufacture the load hook or safety latch. In 2013, Terex Utilities, Inc. purchased the assets of Crane America and it ceased to exist.

Plaintiff alleged in his lawsuit against Terex Utilities that it was the successor in interest to Crane America and was, as a result, responsible for the acts and omissions of Crane America.  Coughlin filed a motion for summary judgment, therein arguing that Terex Utilities was immune from suit by virtue of the Kansas innocent seller statute, K.S.A.§60-3306.  That statute protects a seller of equipment from product liability if certain conditions are satisfied.  Before the Court could rule Coughlin’s motion, plaintiff’s counsel dismissed Terex Utilities and proceeded against other defendants.



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