Articles Posted in Design Defects

A New York City jury signed a $39.5 million verdict for a 30-year-old woman after she fell through an unguarded “vertical ladder” fire escape and suffered permanent injuries. That fire escape design had long been outlawed under legislation approved by the New York state legislature in 1928. This type of fire escape design is what was known as a vertical ladder.  The 1928 law required that all such vertical fire escape ladders be replaced.  The law was amended in 1948 to require all such models be replaced within a year.

In November 2008, Anastasia “Sasha” Klupchak was a 22-year-old New York University honor student and a varsity soccer player. She was visiting a friend’s fourth-floor apartment on 82nd Avenue in Manhattan. That evening,she joined two friends on the fire escape, which was at the back of her friend’s apartment.

As she turned to climb back through the kitchen window from the fire escape, she fell through an unguarded opening in the fire escape platform. She fell 12 feet to the roof below and suffered a severed spine and is now paralyzed from the waist down. She will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Continue reading

On April 2, 2009, Michelle Odom was filing a document at a storage tower near her workstation in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange when her phone rang. She turned to answer her phone, but the knit sleeve of her sweater caught on the open drawer of the storage tower. The tower fell on Odom, knocking her to the floor.

Odom alleged that she has developed “severe complex regional pain syndrome” and is now permanently disabled. In July 2012, Odom filed a lawsuit against Environetx LLC, Steelcase Inc. and Office Concepts Inc. Steelcase was the manufacturer of the storage tower. Office Concepts was a distributor for Steelcase and sold the storage tower to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Environetx was subcontracted by Office Concepts for the installation of the tower.

The tower in question came with instructions and caution labels, warning that the cabinets should be “ganged” together or against a wall to prevent them from toppling, but also specified that “counterweights are not required with vertical drawer towers.”

Continue reading

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago has affirmed a decision by the district court judge regarding circumstantial evidence without an expert witness. In this case, the plaintiffs, Howard Piltch and Barbara Nelson-Piltch, were driving in their 2003 Mercury Mountaineer in 2006 when they were involved in an accident; the airbags of their vehicle did not deploy. After the crash, the couple repaired their car, but did not confirm whether the restraint control module, which monitors a crash and electronically decides whether to deploy airbags, was reset during or after repair work.

One year later, the Piltches were driving the car when it hit a patch of black ice. This caused the car to slide off of the road and hit a wall. On impact, none of the cars’ airbags deployed.

After the second crash, the couple had their Mountaineer repaired at the same repair shop that had repaired the car after the 2006 incident. In 2009, the Piltches sold the car to a mechanic who reprogrammed the vehicle’s black box, wiping out the data that might have been remaining from either of the two crashes.

Continue reading

In the model years 2009 and 2010, Toyota’s Corolla has been targeted as a dangerous vehicle because of the electric power steering (ETS) system. In fact, two Toyota Corolla owners, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania, filed suit. The Corolla owners have alleged that the steering system’s defect caused their cars to drift out of control. The lawsuits claim that the steering system defect is a serious safety problem and that Toyota was aware of the problem but did nothing to fix it.

It was alleged in the lawsuit that the defect in the electric power steering system caused a driver to spin out of control on a highway, cross the center line into oncoming traffic before crashing into an embankment. The plaintiffs have alleged that the defect in the electric power steering system is significant and widespread, and they seek to have a class certified by the court.

Toyota, on the other hand, has argued that the court should not allow class certification nationwide because the vehicle shares no common problem. Toyota said the defect in the steering system affects only a small number of Corolla owners. Toyota also said it has reviewed the reports of steering problems and has found that the individual complaints may relate to the way steering feels to them or tire conditions on the particular vehicle.

Continue reading

The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a Cook County trial judge’s order regarding the effect of an attorney’s lien notice sent to a defendant’s attorneys rather than the defendant directly.

Randy Brown was the owner and operator of a Harold’s Chicken Shack in suburban Broadview, Ill., until Jan. 15, 2009. On that date, the building’s roof collapsed, and the restaurant was destroyed.

The building was leased to Brown by Tap Investment LLC. It was managed by Universal Realty Group. Tap and Universal were defendants in this case. Brown sued both companies and their principals. His lawsuit was filed on Aug. 2, 2010, and the complaint was signed by a lawyer with the law firm representing Brown. The law firm was based in Naperville, Ill.

Continue reading

The Illinois appellate court has reinstated a product-liability lawsuit against a distributor in which there was a default judgment against the manufacturer of the product. In this case, the manufacturer was not subject to jurisdiction, and the plaintiff wasn’t able to satisfy the judgment. Nevertheless, the court ruled that the plaintiff may reinstate the lawsuit against the distributor.

In 2009, Jeff Chraca was unpacking a shipment of golf cart batteries. Chraca was employed by Chicago Battery Co. Chraca was lifting and carrying the batteries with the aid of a black strap that came with the shipment of batteries. The strap broke suddenly and Chraca wrenched one of his shoulders and his neck.

Chraca filed a worker’s compensation claim in 2011 and then filed a strict tort product-liability action against U.S. Battery — the company that sent the batteries and the strap to Chraca’s employer. However, U.S. Battery did not manufacture the strap; instead, it merely sent it along with the battery shipment.

Continue reading

A federal jury has entered an $11 million verdict for victims of the design defect of the 1996 Toyota Camry.

The jurors indicated that Toyota was 60% at fault for the 2006 crash that left two people dead and two seriously injured. They also found that another defendant, Koua Fong Lee, who had insisted that he tried to stop his car before it slammed into another vehicle, was 40% at fault for the crash. Lee and his family members, the family of a girl who died and two others who were seriously injured, sued Toyota Motor Corp. in the United States District Court in Minneapolis, Minn.

The lawsuit alleged this crash was caused by the acceleration defect in Lee’s Toyota. Toyota maintained that there was no design defect and that Lee was negligent and the sole cause of the crash.

Continue reading

Late in 2002, the developer of 1717 S. Prairie Ave. in Chicago, Ill., retained the defendant Hansen & Hempel Co. to complete the masonry work for a 23-story condominium complex. When the building was nearly finished in March 2004, it started to experience water leakage. The condominium association, Board of Directors of the Prairie District Homes Tower Condominium Association, hired an engineering firm to design and implement a repair that was estimated to cost over $6,500,000.

Because of the report on the defects to the building, the association filed a lawsuit wherein the case was tried to a jury on the sole issue of breach of implied warranty of habitability.

The plaintiff board of directors of the condominium association contended that 90% of the through-wall flashing in dams installed by the defendant masonry company were either missing or installed improperly and claimed that because of those material defects it allowed water to penetrate the inner cavity of the building.

Continue reading

In the early morning hours of April 19, 2010, Chantel Jobes was driving a vehicle alone and left the southbound lane of Highway 11, crossed the northbound lane and crashed into a concrete railroad trestle. Jobes was seriously injured and filed a lawsuit against the Norfolk Southern Railway Co., the Mississippi Transportation Commission and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The trial judge denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court of Mississippi granted the defendants’ request for an interlocutory appeal and that court entered summary judgment in their favor.

Jobes was working at TGI Fridays in Hattiesburg, Miss., when she started her shift as the manager at 4 p.m. on April 18, 2010. She finished her shift at approximately 1:30 a.m. the morning of April 19 and then went directly to a 24/7 gym nearby to work out, which was her normal routine. After about an hour at the gym, she headed to a friend’s house to celebrate his birthday. She does not remember the party, but her friends told her that she “didn’t want to finish the cocktail drink [she] had,” and she wanted to go home.

Jobes left the birthday party and drove toward her home. The crash described above occurred about 4:42 a.m. on April 19. The weather was clear and dry, and the crash injuries were life-threatening. Jobes was driving with a suspended license and was legally intoxicated and also had prescription anti-anxiety medication in her system. Jobes testified at her deposition that she had worked 3 straight weeks without a day off up until the crash. She could not remember a time when she had been more stressed.

Continue reading

A 33-year-old elevator mechanic’s helper (known only as C.E.) was working on top of a traction elevator in an apartment building in Broward County, Fla. Before starting, the elevator mechanic‘s helper engaged a safety stop switch to prevent the elevator cab from moving. When C.E. was holding onto a guide rail with his right dominant hand and preparing to cross to an adjacent elevator, the elevator cab which he was standing on moved upward, suddenly and at a high rate of speed. Three wheels that move the elevator ran over C.E.’s hand.

C.E. suffered crushed injuries to the right hand, including partial severance of his ring finger and injuries leading to amputation of his pinky finger. C.E. underwent more than a dozen surgeries to repair the damage to his hand. He later developed complex regional pain syndrome that was diagnosed to be permanent and caused swelling, burning and electric-shock-like pain and required pain medication. Worker’s compensation paid approximately $750,000 in past medical expenses and earnings.

C.E. retrained himself to use his left hand. He returned to work about 4 ½ years after the incident and became an elevator inspector. He was later laid off. He since has obtained work as a security guard.

Continue reading