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Products Liability

Sewell & Neal PLLC is large enough to handle complex products liability claims, but small enough to make sure that your file receives the attention that serious products liability claims require.  We have experience in a wide variety of product liability claims with allegations of:

– manufacturing defects

– design defects

– product failures

– inadequate warnings and labels

– inadequate instructions

Some of our past products liability cases include:

Chicken processing plant accident: Pete Sewell and Tom Peters successfully defended an independent farmer who manufactured and installed a manure auger in a chicken house operated by a commercial poultry producer.  The plaintiff’s right foot was severely injured when he stepped into the auger while the safety guards were removed, and was later amputated.  Relying on the testimony of a hired expert, the plaintiff argued that the auger should have been equipped with an interlock system that turned off the auger when the safety guards were removed.  We were able to demonstrate that, contrary to the expert’s testimony, interlock systems are not a standard design element of manure augers, and that our client was simply following a design that had been provided to him by the commercial poultry producer.  Additionally, we were able to demonstrate that the safety guards had been designed and installed by someone other than our client.  The federal court dismissed our client following a motion for summary judgment.

Specialty welding claim: Peter Sewell and Ted Kozak obtained a defense verdict for a speciality welding contractor in a month-long trial in federal court in Louisville.  A local utility company filed the claim against our client and a machining company after a large fan shaft at an electrical generating plant failed.  The utility company hired the machining company to repair the fan shaft, and requested that the shaft be machined down and that a weld overlay be applied to the shaft.  The shaft would then be machined back to the original specifications.  Our client was hired to perform the welding work.  The shaft broke approximately 30 days after the work was completed, and the parties disputed whether the break was caused by alleged deficiencies in the weld.  The utility company alleged that the broken shaft caused the generating plant to be shut down or operated at a reduced capacity for approximately 5 weeks, and that it had lost the opportunity to make electricity sales in the wholesale energy market during a particular hot summer.  The utility company alleged that it sustained more than $6,000,000 in lost profits.  An 8 person jury returned a unanimous defense verdict after deliberating for approximately 2 hours.

Wrongful death claim involving glass tabletop: Ken O’Brien represented a furniture manufacturer in a wrongful death claim in federal court.  The plaintiff was the Estate of a young man who fell on a glass table. The Estate argued that the table design was defective, and that compliance with a foreign safety standard would have prevented death or serious injury.  The manufacturer established that the table complied with all federal and state safety requirements, and that it was similar in its design and construction to a number of other products on the market.  The parties reached a confidential settlement after mediation.

Automated waste collection vehicle accident: Ken O’Brien represented a retailer of a piece of specialized equipment used in the waste collection industry.  The retailer submitted the winning bid to provide an automated refuse body for a municipal garbage truck.  The lawsuit arose from an unfortunate motor vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a young boy.  The boy’s family sued the retailer and manufacturer or the refuse body, the retailer and manufacturer of the truck chassis, the city, and its driver.  The plaintiffs alleged that the garbage truck was unreasonably dangerous because the right hand seating position of the driver limited his visibility of children and objects alongside the left side of the vehicle.  Both retailers established that they strictly complied with the city’s bid specifications and were granted summary judgment.  The action against the manufacturers continued after the city entered into a compromise settlement with the family.

Flammable furniture claim: Ken O’Brien represented a furniture retailer in a wrongful death claim involving a multiple fatality house fire.  The plaintiffs alleged that a young child used an imported cigarette lighter to ignite an upholstered sofa.  The fire resulted in the death of a mother and 3 of her young children.  The plaintiffs sued the sofa manufacturer, the sofa retailer, and entities involved in the importation of the cigarette lighter.  The furniture defendants established that the sofa exceeded all state and federal safety requirements, and noted that the safety regulations were intended to prevent accident ignition rather than an intentional act.  The defendants also challenged the plaintiffs’ theory of how the fire started, noting that there was no credible evidence that the boy ignited the sofa and that it was just as likely that he ignited one of the many other flammable items in the house.   The parties ultimately  reached a confidential settlement.