On November 16, 2017, KLRW obtained a verdict of no cause of action in favor of its client, Cincinnati Incorporated, in a products liability suit in Newark, New Jersey. The trial had taken place over the preceding two weeks.
The case involved a 52-year-old plaintiff who had been setting up a Cincinnati press brake to form metal shelving for grocery stores when he sustained crush and amputation injuries to the four long fingers of his dominant hand. In addition to the loss of use of that hand, plaintiff sustained indisputable psychiatric injuries of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He did not return to work and never will. His medical expenses at the time of trial exceeded $225,000.
Plaintiff sued Cincinnati claiming the incident occurred because the press brake was defectively designed and failed to contain adequate warnings. At trial, he relied on the inability of a defendant manufacturer to assert the defense of plaintiff’s comparative fault for a workplace injury and on the heeding presumption, which affords plaintiff the use of a presumption that he would have followed an adequate warning had one been provided.
Cincinnati presented evidence that the press brake was reasonably safe when manufactured and designed despite the absence of on-product labeling, and that the proximate causes of the accident were the conduct of plaintiff and his employer. The actions of the employer, in turn, implicated defenses based on substantial unforeseeable modification of the machine and the manufacturer’s right to rely on an employer to disseminate post-manufacture warnings.
After in limine motions by the defense intended to limit the scope of plaintiff’s product liability claims, and a directed verdict motion based on a net opinion argument at the close of plaintiff’s case, the matter went to the jury on the sole issue of failure to warn. After deliberating for an hour, the jury returned a verdict that the Cincinnati press brake was not defective.
Evidence showing the versatility of the press brake and its industrial utility, as well as Cincinnati’s unusual commitment to informing users of its products of evolving safety features helped the company to prevail.
KLRW’s trial team consisted of Paul Lisovicz, Tim Smith, Kim Wells, and Laura Ciullo.