Another important type of case our law firm handles involves claims against companies that manufacture or sell products that are unreasonably dangerous or defective. These claims, commonly known as product liability claims, are pursued when a product is either negligently designed, or improperly manufactured, or involve situations where the company has failed to properly warn the public about dangerous features of a product. While company officials may complain about the costs of these cases, many safety improvements and safety rules and regulations that protect all of us today began with or grew out of information developed through a lawsuit. The following are some recent examples of cases of this sort that we have successfully handled:
Despite claims that a worker had caused his own injuries due to carelessness while operating a wood chipper, we nevertheless obtained a substantial recovery for a man who lost his arm. Our client claimed that he was pulled into the wood chipper when a part of his clothing got hung on a tree branch that was being fed into the machine. While the wood chipper did have a " kill " or a safety shutoff device integrated into the design, we showed that due to the design of the chute for feeding tree limbs into the machine, the safety device could not be effectively used in an emergency. Through the use of safety experts and investigators, we established that at the time the wood chipper was manufactured, it was known that longer feeding chutes that would keep the workers further away from the chipping blades were technologically and financially feasible. We further established that the manufacturer, despite knowing about other similar incidents, always sought to blame the worker as opposed to simply adding length to the feeding chute. To our knowledge, the short feeding chute is no longer used for these types of wood chippers.
Substantial compensation was obtained in Clayton County, Georgia lawsuit from a propane tank manufacturer and gas distributor following a residential fire that took the lives of four people. The fire occurred when propane gas leaked out of a defective and overfilled tank and unfortunately found an ignition source. The propane tank leaked due to the fact the tank was overfilled and released its contents through a value when it was subjected to a foreseeable temperature increase. The tank did not have an overfill prevention device (OPD) that is now required to be on tanks used in Georgia. The manufacturer took the position that no regulation required them to have an OPD on the tank at the time it was manufactured. Through aggressive investigation, we showed that OPDs were in fact technologically and financially feasible at the time the tank was manufactured. It was also established by evidence that even though OPD technology was feasible prior to the time the subject tank was manufactured, it wasn't until lawyers began filing suits in other parts of the country, that serious efforts to incorporate an OPD into the tank design were initiated by the manufacturers. The claim against the gas distributor was based upon the fact that the tank was overfilled due to improper filling procedures while knowing the tank did not include an OPD, which was now a required device at the time the tank was filled.
A substantial recovery was obtained pre-litigation for injuries sustained by a two-year-old child that were caused by a defective fireplace mantel that surrounded an electric fireplace. The claim was brought against the manufacturer and the do-it-yourself retailer on the grounds that inadequate instructions and warnings were provided by both the manufacturer and the retailer. Additionally, a defective design claim was asserted against the manufacturer for failure to incorporate into the design a means to secure the mantel to prevent it from tipping over. The latent defect was not obvious, and the unit instructions that accompanied the product failed to give any clue that the mantel was not stable when installed in accordance with the instructions and as displayed at the retailer's store. Fortunately, the little boy had no permanent injury or recollection of the incident.
Our firm also successfully pursued a products liability case involving the cholesterol-lowering drug Baycol. A lawsuit was filed against the manufacturer of the drug, which had caused our client to develop rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disease that can lead to renal insufficiency and death. Baycol was later removed from the market. The patient's doctor, who had prescribed the Baycol, attributed both the rhabdomyolysis and her eventual death from heart failure to the drug. Bayer Corporation, the manufacturer of Baycol, contended that there was no proof that her death was caused by the drug. Nevertheless, the case was resolved during the Multi-District Litigation discovery period.
In conjunction with other law firms representing other clients, we filed litigation in DeKalb County against various entities in connection with the nutritional supplement known as Total Body Formula. Litigation was also filed in Alabama by other law firms on behalf of their clients. Due to various manufacturing errors, a number of product batches containing too much chromium made it to retail stores where customers such as our client bought the defective product and experienced hair loss, nail loss, and a number of other health problems. Due to the number of customers exposed to the defective product in the Southeast and the number of entities involved in the product distribution chain, the litigation in Alabama and Georgia was protracted and complicated. The Defendants, in addition to pointing fingers at each other, also disputed causation. One case went to trial in DeKalb County before Judge Wong. Through the great teamwork by a number of law firms, including our firm, a global settlement was reached that provided fair compensation to the hundreds of individuals harmed by this product.
A very hard-fought recovery was obtained for a Cedartown, Georgia man who was injured on the job due to a defective bucket truck. Our client sustained a number of injuries when the bucket arm collapsed and sent our client to the ground. The most severe injury was to his ankle. Our firm was called into the case by another lawyer who handled the worker's compensation claim. Following our initial meeting with the client, we realized that due to the age of the bucket truck there could be a statute of repose issue that could preclude recovery even though it appeared that a manufacturing defect could be proven. Within a week of talking to the client, we were able to find an expert and get a lawsuit filed. As expected, the Defendant manufacturers of the bucket truck claimed that Georgia's statute of repose prevented recovery. We believed the time to file the litigation was closed to being exhausted, but that time still remained. This case started in Gwinnett County but was removed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The trial judge agreed with the Defendants and ruled against us. We felt the judge was wrong and appealed. The case went before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court. Through our firm efforts, we were able to reverse the trial judge and get a substantial recovery for our client. In addition to getting a great result for our client, we also established a common-sense rule as to how when the statute of repose should be triggered. See, Campbell v. Altec Industries, Inc. 288 Ga. 525 (2011).