Lawyers in our firm’s Product Liability and Personal Injury Section handle cases involving catastrophic injuries and deaths arising out of any type of accident, including car crashes, 18-wheeler accidents and industrial and workplace accidents. Potential product liability claims are often overlooked by some lawyers when investigating what many view as routine accidents. In many motor vehicle crashes, some defect – either design or manufacturing – played a major role in causing the accident. A product liability claim focuses on whether or not the product is defective. An entire product may be defective or it may be that a component part of the product contains the defect. The product may well contain design, manufacturing, or warning defects. In some cases, it will be a combination of these problems. Personal Injury Claims include heavy truck litigation, nursing home litigation, slip and falls and automobile accidents. Below are just a few of the type of cases our firm handles on a regular basis.
In late February, Takata pled guilty and agreed to pay $1 billion for concealing a defect in millions of its airbag inflators. At least 11 deaths in the U.S. have been linked to the defective airbags. “For over a decade, Takata lied to its customers about the safety and reliability of its ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement.
The potential dangers posed by these air bags are that the airbags can unexpectedly explode with excessive force, causing serious injury or death to occupants. The defect is linked to the air bags’ inflator systems, which can shoot metal fragments from the devices into the car like shrapnel. Airbags on both the driver’s and passenger’s side can explode, even as a result of a fender-bender or other minor collision. Tokyo-based Takata is one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers. It manufactures airbags, safety belts, steering wheels and other auto parts for a variety of automakers. Vehicles containing the defective airbags include certain models made by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Chrysler, Audi, Volkswagen and General Motors. Cole Portis, Ben Baker, and Chris Glover, lawyers in the Section, are involved in these cases.
GM Ignition Switch Litigation
General Motors (GM) has recalled more than 17 million vehicles related to a defective ignition switch problem, which can leave a vehicle without power and the driver unable to control the vehicle in sudden and dangerous situations. Court documents and other evidence reveal that GM knew about the ignition switch problem as early as 2001.
Lawyers in the Section have handled numerous claims involving the GM ignition switch defect. Some of those claims were settled through the GM Ignition Switch Compensation Fund. Others were settled directly with GM lawyers. Recently, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a lower-court ruling that the company was liable for claims for deaths or injuries arising before it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. This means many of the other outstanding claims can be filed in federal and state courts and proceed to trial. Cole Portis, Graham Esdale, and Ben Baker in the Section are involved in these cases. We are working with Lance Cooper in the case.
Heavy Trucking Accidents
There are significant differences between handling an interstate trucking case and other car wreck cases. It is imperative to have knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, technology, business practices, insurance coverages, and to have the ability to discover written and electronic records. Expert testimony is of utmost importance. Accidents involving semi-trucks and passenger vehicles often result in serious injuries and wrongful death. Trucking companies and their insurance companies almost always quickly send accident investigators to the scene of a truck accident to begin working to limit their liability in these situations.
Chris Glover, a lawyer in the Section, has represented numerous folks who have been seriously injured or lost a family member as a result of the wrongful conduct of a trucking company. He most recently wrote and had published a book that explains how to properly litigate a heavy trucking case. The book is titled An Introduction to Truck Accident Claims: A Guide to Getting Started. The book covers topics including the basics of trucking regulations and requirements, how to prepare for your case, potential Defendants including the carrier, the broker and the driver; and common issues that arise in commercial vehicle litigation, such as hours of service, fatigue, maintenance and products liability. This book is available free to attorneys in either hard copy or downloadable digital format. For your free hard copy, call us at 800-898-2034. The book also can be downloaded at chrisglover-law.com/book.
Tire failure can result in a serious car crash causing serious injury or death to the car’s occupants. Air, heat and sunlight can cause the rubber in tires to break down. When a tire is defective, potentially serious problems like detreads and blowouts can occur long before the tire would be expected to wear out. If the tire failure is the result of design or manufacturing defects, and the manufacturer is aware of the problem, they have an obligation to alert consumers to the potential danger.
One serious problem with tires is that they wear down on the inside as they age, but they look brand new on the outside. Despite the dangers of tire aging, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has still refused to establish a tire aging standard. A tire aging standard would make it easier for consumers to determine the tire’s age. Right now, the only way to determine the age of a tire is to decipher the cryptic code on the tire’s sidewall. Also, a tire aging standard would make it mandatory for tire centers to take tires out of service at a specified date, regardless of what the tire looks like on the outside.
Our lawyers are also seeing a huge influx of defectively designed tires from China. We recently filed a case in North Carolina where a Chinese brand tire failed, causing a wreck and a life-long truck driver to suffer serious injuries. As more and more of the products we buy, including tires, are being made in China and other foreign countries, the “importers” role is becoming more critical. In too many instances, “importers” are not taking the appropriate steps to assure that foreign tire makers’ tires are safe, despite the NHTSA standards requiring them to do so.
Under Federal law, “importers” must take steps to assure that the tires they import are free of defects. Good manufacturing processes require “importers” to conduct on-site inspection(s) of a foreign tire makers’ facilities to assure that adequate testing, manufacturing, quality control and other measures are in place. Further, “importers,” once they import tires into this country, should perform random sampling, testing and inspection of foreign tires before they distribute and/or sell the tires to consumers in this country.
In one recent case, we learned that, while a company was importing more than 400,000 tires a month, it was doing nothing to insure that the Chinese tires it imported, sold and profited from were safe. The importer never inspected the manufacturing plant, never observed any tire testing and never checked to see if the Chinese manufacturer employed any quality control measures for its tires and plants. Further, the importer never performed one post-“import” inspection, test and/or took any other step relative to one single tire it sold despite the federal requirements to do so. This conduct is particularly troubling when you consider how important tires are to our safety. Companies that import tires, or any product for that matter, should be held accountable when they do nothing to insure these products are safe for American consumers. Our Product Liability Section has pursued numerous claims against both tire manufacturers and importers of the defective Chinese tires. If you have questions regarding a potential tire case, contact Cole Portis or Ben Baker at 800-898-2034 or by email at Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com or Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com.
Bad Boy Buggy Litigation
Greg Allen, the Senior Product Liability Lawyer in our firm, continues to handle cases involving injuries from the off-road vehicle known as the Bad Boy Buggy. The Buggy was initially designed by a gentleman who owned an auto salvage yard in Natchez, Mississippi, but the company was sold a couple of times and now is owned by Textron, Inc.
The Bad Boy Buggies are currently marketed for hunting and utility work but they are designed very poorly. They are unstable on uneven terrain. The static stability factor of the Bad Boy vehicles is very low, which is caused by a design that has a narrow track width and a high center of gravity. The vehicles are also very heavy primarily because of the weight of the numerous batteries located internally. When the Bad Boy vehicle turns over, it has the potential to cause significant injuries.
As of today, the Bad Boy Buggies are still not equipped with doors or adequate measures to prevent “leg-out injuries.” Yamaha performed a recall on all of its Rhino vehicles in 2007 because it was seeing numerous leg-out injuries when the vehicles tipped over. The primary problem was that, in a side-by-side vehicle, the driver or passenger will reflexively put their foot out as the vehicle tips. The vehicle typically still has forward momentum as the tip-up occurs, so as the occupant plants his foot on the ground, the foot/leg will be pulled under the backside of the vehicle. Quite often, this causes severe fractures and even amputations.
While Bad Boy has now upgraded its design to add a shoulder net and seatbelt, its foot-out protection is still very bad. Textron added a trip bar in the foot well area, which it claims is a foot-out preventative device. But Textron has performed no testing on the vehicle to see if the trip bar is effective. The vehicles have no protection for occupants who are younger, or of short stature, because their legs may not be long enough to reach the area where the leg-out device is located. These vehicles need doors and netting to prevent leg-out and arm- and hand-out injuries.
Hopefully, Textron, Inc. and its subsidiary Textron Specialty Vehicles, Inc. will recognize the design flaw and start equipping their vehicles with doors and other proper safety devices to reduce the danger. In the meanwhile, some very bad and defective vehicles are in use and are an extreme hazard for folks who use them.
If you have any questions about a specific Bad Boy accident or need information on the ongoing litigation, contact Greg Allen, our firm’s Senior Product Liability lawyer, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Greg.Allen@beasleyallen.com. Greg has successfully handled a number of cases involving the Bad Boy Buggy and currently has several in court.
Industrial Accidents And Workplace Defects
Each year, thousands of workers are injured or killed at their workplace. Although a state’s workers’ compensation system places limitations on the ability of employees to hold employers accountable for these work-related injuries, many people do not realize that there may be another available source of recovery. Injuries in the workplace are often caused by defective products, such as a machine where a dangerous nip-point is not properly guarded nor is the employee warned of the dangerous nip-point. If a product causes an on-the-job injury, a product liability suit may be brought against the product’s manufacturer. Catastrophic injuries, deaths, and amputations unfortunately too commonly occur from defective products found in the work place.
Our firm handles numerous product cases each year that arise in the context of an accident that occurred on the job or in the workplace. Currently, Kendall Dunson, a partner here at the firm, is handling a tragic case that occurred in Tennessee. While working in the maintenance department for his employer, the employee was setting up a roll stack on an extruder. The roll stack is one machine in an entire line. The roll stack consists of three large rollers. The middle roller is the master and the other two are slaves. While working to get the rollers in sync, he was pulled through the rollers and his head was crushed leading to his death. No one saw the incident but the rollers were found spinning at maximum rate. The rollers have in-running nip points which should have been guarded, but, in this tragic case, the nip-points were not guarded. The manufacturer outfitted the rollers with a stop pull cord along the edges and at the top and bottom of the roll stack. But the roll stack is so large that someone standing in the middle of the roll stack cannot reach the pull cord. The roll stack was defective and unreasonably dangerous for lack of adequate guarding and/or a presence sensing device which would have prevented this needless death. For more information contact Kendall Dunson or Evan Allen at 800-898-20345 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com or Evan.Allen@beasleyallen.com.
Soaring through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour, thousands of feet above the ground in an airplane or helicopter leaves little room for error. One small mechanical problem, misjudgment or faulty response in the air can spell disaster for air passengers and even unsuspecting people on the ground. This is why it’s crucial for the aviation industry, including manufacturers, pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers, to adhere to the highest possible standards at all times.
Statistics indicate mechanical failures cause up to 22 percent of aviation crashes. Historically, aircraft manufacturing defects, flawed aircraft design, inadequate warning systems and inadequate instructions for safe use of the aircraft’s equipment or systems have contributed to numerous aviation crashes. In such cases, the pilot may follow every procedure correctly but still be unable to avert disaster. Mike Andrews, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, has handled numerous cases involving defects found in aircrafts. Two defective aviation cases that Mike is handling are most interesting.
One case involves a crash of the V22 Osprey in Hawaii resulting in death of a young Marine. The Osprey has a long history of defects involving the aircraft’s hydraulics and software. This crash resulted from the engines ingesting sand, which was kicked up into the air by the downwash from the Osprey’s rotor-blades as it attempted to land. The aircraft is equipped with a filtration system referred to as an engine air particle separator, which is intended to prevent sand and other particle ingestion. However, the system is faulty. Bell and Boeing have tried various iterations and designs but have not yet implemented a safe and effective filter. Several crashes have resulted in deaths and serious injuries.
The second case involves the crash of a light aircraft off the coast of Georgia. Two inexperienced pilots were attending flight school in North Carolina and were assigned to fly an aircraft to Jacksonville, Florida, to the flight school maintenance facility. Unfortunately, the aircraft was dispatched with inoperable equipment. Specifically, the pilots were sent up in an aircraft which had faulty vacuum pumps – one was completely inoperable and the other failed in flight. The vacuum pumps provide the pilots’ horizon and orientation information while in flight. Without such information, pilots lose spatial awareness and become disoriented. Due to the inoperable and faulty equipment, the plane crashed, killing both student pilots. For more information contact Mike Andrews at 800-898-20345 or by email at Mike.Andrews@beasleyallen.com.
Non-Auto Product Defects
Lawyers in the Section also handle litigation involving defective products such as smoke detectors, flammable clothing, industrial equipment, and heaters just to name a few. Most of the time, family members do not suspect that a defective product is the cause of a death or injury, and manufacturers readily blame the victim’s actions. Our firm has discovered that defective products are increasingly a major cause of unexpected deaths and injuries. LaBarron Boone, who handles Product Liability litigation, has successfully handled several of these types of cases and has been leading a campaign to make smoke detectors safer and more effective. Contact LaBarron if you have any questions about a potential case.
Premises Liability Litigation
Premises Liability Cases can involve claims arising out of falls caused by a foreign substance on the premises, falls caused by a part of the premises, as well as injuries caused by falling items. Specifically, in a case involving a foreign substance on a floor, a Plaintiff must establish that the foreign substance caused the fall and that the Defendant premises owner had notice or should have had notice of the substance at the time of the accident. The law is different when injuries are caused by part of the premises which is in a dangerous condition, such as part of a doorway, curb, or stairs, or where the injury is caused by a display created by a store employee.
In situations where the injury is caused by part of the premises or a display that was set up by the store, proof of notice is not a prerequisite but the Plaintiff must still prove the injury was caused by a defective or dangerous condition. Injuries caused by falling objects most often involve items falling from displays that are either part of the premises, or were set up by the store. If the falling object is the result of a display set up by the store or some part of the premises falling, then the customer does not have to prove notice. Mike Crow and Julie Beasley in our Section have extensive experience in handling premises liability cases. If you need any guidance or have any questions, contact Mike or Julie at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Crow@beasleyallen.com or Julia.Beasley@beasleyallen.com.
Nursing Home Litigation
One of the most vulnerable segments of society is our senior citizens. As our population ages, more and more individuals are admitted to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Our firm reviews and files cases in state courts, federal courts, and arbitration tribunals against nursing homes as a result of negligent medical and nursing care provided to nursing home residents. Currently, our firm is handling cases involving bed sores, falls, chokes, and medication errors. Ben Locklar in our Section has handed numerous cases involving patients who have died or been severely injured by the negligent acts of nursing homes. If you have any questions regarding these types of claims, Ben would be happy to discuss them with you. He can be contacted at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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