Earlier this month, the Federal Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit affirming a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case presents important issues for Maryland accident victims in that it illustrates the “failure to warn” theory of product liability.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a crane operator who worked in a whip yard. One day, the plaintiff was working to move the bow of a ship with several other cranes in what is called a “tandem lift” involving multiple cranes. The lift began as planned, but at some point during the process, two of the cranes began to separate from one another.
As the cranes separated, the stack of counterweights on the crane being operated by the plaintiff began to shift. This caused one of the 18,000-pound counterweights to crash into the cab area of the crane, knocking the plaintiff out of the cab to the concrete eight feet below. The plaintiff survived, but suffers from serious, lifelong physical and mental disabilities.
The plaintiff, through his wife, sued his employer and the crane manufacturer. The plaintiff’s case against the crane manufacturer claimed that the company failed to warn users of the risks involved with the crane tipping. After the jury heard all the evidence, it returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $8 million. However, the jury apportioned 50% of the fault to the plaintiff’s employer, 10% to the plaintiff, and the remaining 40% to the crane manufacturer. The crane manufacturer appealed the $3.4 million verdict against it.
Specifically, the crane manufacturer argued that the warnings were adequate and that the plaintiff’s own misuse of the crane contributed to the accident.
The Appellate Decision
On appeal, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict against the crane company. The court explained that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence supporting the jury’s conclusion that the warnings were inadequate. The court noted that an appellate court generally gives great deference to a jury’s conclusion as long as the jury’s decision was supported by the evidence.
From there, the court moved on to the manufacturer’s claim that the plaintiff’s misuse of the crane contributed to the accident. Again, the court cited the importance of the jury’s role in the process and highlighted the respect a jury verdict is entitled to. The court acknowledged that there was conflicting evidence regarding whether the crane was overloaded and whether it was being operated on a slope; however, the court deferred to the jury’s resolution of that conflict.
Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while using a dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland product liability lawsuit. The dedicated Maryland personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling a wide range of claims, including Maryland product liability cases. We provide a unique form of client-centered representation, ensuring that our clients are kept informed of their case’s progress through the process. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Premises Liability Cases Involving Known and Obvious Hazards, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 16, 2018.
Maryland Court of Appeals Allows Premises Liability Case to Proceed Based on Defective Condition of a Property Built in 1990, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 2, 2018.