Products Liability


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Product Liability case - start to finish - a Plaintiff\'s perspective

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Products Liability

  1. 1. Products Liability The anatomy of an Industrial machine accident A Plaintiff’s perspective from start to finish
  2. 2. Jeffrey R. Marquart <ul><li>  Education: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Notre Dame Law School, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1987 J.D. Honors:  American Jurisprudence Award - Commercial Transactions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL, 1984 B.S. Honors:  Dean List Major:  Mechanical Engineering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Areas of Practice: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wrongful Death </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal Injury -- Plaintiff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Elder Law </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Litigation & Appeals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Motor Vehicle Accidents -- Plaintiff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Products Liability Law </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Toxic Torts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business Formation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial Disputes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bar Admissions: U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1989 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>California, 1989 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Illinois, 1987 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois, 1987 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>U.S. Court of Appeals Federal Circuit, 1988 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jeffrey R. Marquart attended the Illinois Institute of Technology where he was on the Dean's List and graduated in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Thereafter, he attended the University of Notre Dame Law School where he was the recipient of the American Jurisprudence Award in Commercial Transactions and received his Juris Doctorate in 1987. Following his admission to the Illinois and Federal Bars in 1987, he practiced with a prominent Intellectual Property firm in Chicago, with an emphasis on Patent, Trademark and related litigation. In 1989, he was admitted to the California Bar and joined another prominent Los Angeles firm where he specialized in Patent Litigation. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1991, he left the intellectual property arena to join a civil litigation firm specializing in products liability and personal injury. In 1997, he founded of the Tustin based firm of Smith and Marquart. In 2006, he formed the Marquart Law Group to establish a highly technical and innovative boutique firm specializing in the representation of those who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals and business entities. Mr. Marquart’s experience includes the prosecution of highly complex products liability cases involving industrial machinery, automobile steering systems, stability and crashworthiness, tire design, residential appliances, playground equipment and children’s toys, furniture and restraint systems. He has prosecuted a multitude of cases involving significant automobile, cycling and trucking accidents. </li></ul><ul><li>He resides in Coto de Caza California with his wife Lisa, and their three daughters, Katherine, Caroline and Courtney. He actively participates in golf, mountain biking and ice hockey. He is an automobile enthusiast and collector. Above all, he is a staunch supported of his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Christopher N. Andal <ul><li>Education: Southwestern University School of Law, Los Angeles, California 2005 J.D. Honors: California Witkin Awards - Civil Procedure and Torts Univesity of California-Irvine, Irvine, California B.A. Major: Political Science & Criminology, Law & Society </li></ul><ul><li>Christopher N. Andal obtained his law degree at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. While in law school, Mr. Andal was awarded the prestigious California Witkin Award for Civil Procedure and Torts for achieving the highest grade in both classes. Prior to law school, Mr. Andal attended the University of California at Irvine where he obtained Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Criminology, Law & Society. He completed high school in Orange County after having moved from his native Toronto, Canada. Mr. Andal has over ten (10) years of experience in civil litigation. He began his legal career as a file clerk, worked his way up, and ultimately worked for many years as a paralegal and office manager at several civil litigation firms before passing the California bar on his first attempt. Mr. Andal has extensive litigation, mediation and trial experience. His practice includes the representation of individuals and businesses in matters of civil litigation with an emphasis on cases involving personal injury, products liability, wrongful death and business disputes. Mr. Andal further serves as the head of the firm's DUI defense team. He is a member of the Orange County Bar Association and was installed as the 2008 Chair Elect of the OCBA's Young Lawyers Division. He will assume the position of YLD Chair on the OCBA's Board of Directors in 2009. He is also an active member of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County. He further volunteers his time to Orange County's Public Law Center, a pro bono law firm, committed to providing representation for low income residents. Mr. Andal's interests include spending time with his wife and daughter, playing hockey and golf, and supporting the local professional sports teams. Mr. Andal believes that everyone is entitled to competent legal representation and strives to protect the rights of consumers and small businesses. He is dedicated to maintaining integrity in the legal profession and removing the stigma placed upon consumer attorneys and their clients. </li></ul><ul><li>Areas of Practice: Personal injury, products liability, premises liability, wrongful death, business formation, business and commercial litigation, general civil litigation and DUI/DWI defense. </li></ul><ul><li>Professional Associations and Memberships: Orange County Trial Lawyers Association Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Orange County Bar Association-Young Lawyers Division </li></ul>
  4. 4. Introduction
  5. 5. Case Environment <ul><li>Industry: Cheese Manufacturing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Employer - Large Privately held corporation – family owned </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fiercely competitive and secretive industry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Outside corporate counsel wholly integrated into business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loyalty demanded and received from employees </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Plaintiff: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Skilled employee </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plant superintendent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Valued employee </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Defendant: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Specialty machine manufacturer – ownership identical to “employer” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Injury: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>amputation of dominant hand to mid forearm </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The “Product” <ul><li>High speed stainless steel grinder/auger </li></ul><ul><li>Part of developmental “New Cheese Production” facility </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose: used as mechanism to convey cheese in a sterile environment to next “work station” of cheese production </li></ul><ul><li>Auger is old technology; this auger is specifically designed for use in this facility </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Defect
  8. 9. Introduction to the Plaintiffs <ul><li>35 year old high school graduate </li></ul><ul><li>8 plus years experience in “Dairy Manufacturing” </li></ul><ul><li>Father of three children </li></ul><ul><li>Sole wage earner </li></ul><ul><li>Married to Loss of Consortium plaintiff for 12 years </li></ul>
  9. 10. Representation Balancing the interests of the clients versus need for aggressive representation and case development
  10. 11. Initial meeting with Clients <ul><li>Intense psychological issues </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple cancellations of meetings (90 days post incident) </li></ul><ul><li>Guilt associated with proceeding against “employer” </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of financial losses </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural – male fearful of any signs of weakness </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns re witness information </li></ul>
  11. 12. Initial Concerns <ul><li>Defendant manufacturer closely held by employer/owner </li></ul><ul><li>Trade Secret and Confidentiality Agreements </li></ul><ul><li>OSHA Investigation </li></ul><ul><li>Stream of Commerce </li></ul><ul><li>Sensitivity to timing of litigation </li></ul><ul><li>Preservation of evidence </li></ul>
  12. 13. Initial Efforts <ul><li>Request Cal-OSHA records </li></ul><ul><li>Request 911 recording </li></ul><ul><li>Request Records of Emergency Response Personnel </li></ul><ul><li>Secure Website Material re: Manufacturer </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer held itself out to be industry leader in building equipment for the food industry </li></ul><ul><li>“ [We] design and develop products to meet customer’s specific needs. We understand that there are no two companies that run alike.” </li></ul><ul><li>Admittedly engaged in the manufacture of augers </li></ul><ul><li>Request Secretary of State information </li></ul>
  13. 14. Commencing Litigation <ul><li>Lawsuit filed 1 year after incident </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Theories of Liability - “Kitchen Sink” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Breach of Express & Implied Warranties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strict Liability - Design & Manufacturing Defect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Products Liability - Failure to Warn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of Consortium </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Establishing Contact and Developing Relationship with Corporate Counsel </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining Authorization from Employer re: Confidential Portion of Cal-OSHA file </li></ul><ul><li>Cal-OSHA refused to produce confidential portion of file without employer’s authorization </li></ul><ul><li>Informal Inspection -Necessary to gain a deeper understanding of machine </li></ul><ul><li>Stipulate to Confidentiality - Filed with court to ease employer’s concern </li></ul>
  14. 15. First Introduction to the Machine <ul><li>Post remedial changes: </li></ul><ul><li>Warning Signs; barriers/guards </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence of modifications - developmental </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence of modifications – post-remedial </li></ul><ul><li>Spatial relationship; comparison to OSHA photographs </li></ul>
  15. 16. Differences between Accident and Inspection
  16. 17. Differences Continued
  17. 18. OSHA Photos Found on Safety Manager’s Computer
  18. 30. Subpoena Power <ul><li>Making up for Lost time </li></ul><ul><li>Employer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identity and last known contact information of all employees present on the date of the incident </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Obtain blue prints, diagrams, schematics etc. to gain understanding of plant, machine & manufacturing process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Employment File - Plaintiff was a “safe” employee </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Corporate Counsel making things difficult </li></ul><ul><li>Asserting attorney-client privilege/work product as to Manufacturer’s documents (i.e. communications and billing generated by Manufacturer to Employer) </li></ul><ul><li>Third Parties </li></ul><ul><li>CalOSHA investigator </li></ul><ul><li>Prior employees </li></ul><ul><li>Independent Contractors </li></ul>
  19. 31. Written Discovery <ul><li>Identify All Witnesses </li></ul><ul><li>Identify Manufacturer’s Employees and All Other Individuals/entities [Including Employer’s Employees] who were Involved in the Design, Manufacturing, Development, Assembly, Testing, Inspection, Risk Assessment. </li></ul><ul><li>Last Known Contact Information of All Past and Present Employees </li></ul><ul><li>Developmental History of Machine </li></ul><ul><li>Training Provided by Manufacturer - none </li></ul><ul><li>Shareholder and Ownership Information </li></ul><ul><li>Payments Made or Consideration Received from Employer - existence of checks for payment of component parts </li></ul><ul><li>Revenue History </li></ul><ul><li>Contracts and Agreements - existence of confidentiality agreements </li></ul><ul><li>Blueprints, Plans, Drawings, Schematics, etc. of Machine - none </li></ul><ul><li>Customer Lists </li></ul>
  20. 32. Depositions <ul><ul><li>Strategic order of deponents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Elimination of witnesses </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Get to Mechanic level of employees to trap higher ups </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hodge - Identified witnesses present </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t stop until you find the witness: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Location of paneling </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Retired employee - design was “stupid” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>History of Changes - “magic marker” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Chief Engineer - lack of experience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Photographs found on safety manager’s computer </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of diagrams and instructions </li></ul></ul></ul>
  21. 33. Motion for Summary Adjudication <ul><li>Arguments </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer and Employer Are Essentially Same Entity </li></ul><ul><li>Same 3 individuals, and the same President, serve on the BOD for both Manufacturer and Employer </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer’s business involves 95% of its sales to Employer </li></ul><ul><li>Product Did Not Enter Stream of Commerce </li></ul><ul><li>Product was a special order or design </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer Did Not Act with Malice, Oppression or Conscious Disregard for the Safety of Others [Punitive Damages] </li></ul><ul><li>Opposition </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer and Employer are Separate & Distinct Legal Entities </li></ul><ul><li>Product Did Enter Stream of Commerce </li></ul><ul><li>Valuable consideration was paid. </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer was in the business of selling food processing equipment. </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturer Did Act with Malice, Oppression and/or Conscious Disregard for the Safety of Others </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers did not have any formal education </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of drawings or blueprints in design of product </li></ul><ul><li>Only drawing regarding the design of the product was made with a “magic” marker on the outside of the machine for discharge door </li></ul><ul><li>No safety features, warnings or instructions. </li></ul><ul><li>Motion Denied </li></ul>
  22. 34. Remaining Defenses <ul><ul><li>Employer Negligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cleaning Issues </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Failure to install interlocks (Self defeating argument) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparative Negligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hand Test </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 36. Planning the Attack <ul><ul><li>Admission of prejudicial evidence: Pain Management Expert, Biomechanical Expert, Accident Reconstruction Expert </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Development of Explanation of Incident </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Safety Analysis re: Human Factors, Lack of Warning Signs and Lockout/Tagout Procedures (Ex-OSHA Supervisor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Machine Design Expert: Lack of Integral Parts & Safety Measures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Designation of Defendant’s VP of Engineering </li></ul></ul>
  24. 37. Evidentiary Battles <ul><li>Post Remedial Measures </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Machine was taken out of service shortly following incident </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Warning signs were subsequently placed on machines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Metal fabrication – panels extended to avoid pinch point and grate installed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Padlock installed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Warning Signs Would Have Been Ineffective </li></ul><ul><li>Testimony of Vice President – exclude opinions </li></ul><ul><li>Exclude Character Evidence (“good”/”safe” employee) </li></ul><ul><li>Exclude Injury Photographs </li></ul>
  25. 38. Demonstrative Evidence <ul><ul><li>Jury View of Machine </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Development of Computer Animation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plaintiff’s Multiple Prosthetic Devices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exemplar Spinal Implant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exemplar Safety Interlock with Purchase Receipt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phantom Pain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Photos of Injury </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Illustration of Injury </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Illustration of Pain </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Illustration of Spinal Implant </li></ul></ul></ul>
  27. 40. The Injury
  28. 41. Illustration
  29. 42. Exemplar re Hand
  30. 43. Pain Management
  31. 44. Pain and Nerve Diagram
  32. 45. Workers’ Compensation Lien <ul><ul><li>In excess of $400,000.00 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intervenor active part of litigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intervenor walked away from settlement offer (50%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Employer Negligence Issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dismissal of Complaint-in-Intervention - Convert to lienholder status on the eve of trial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expungement of Lien </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tentative Settlement </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Motion to Expunge Lien </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Granted: Case dismissed </li></ul></ul></ul>
  33. 46. Post Litigation Concerns <ul><ul><li>Employer Negligence Issues at Workers Compensation Board </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assertion of Full Credit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reclassification of allegedly gratuitous payments </li></ul></ul>