The Daily

What is Product Liability?

Back around the time that the Occupy Movement was gaining steam, I traveled to Cleveland to depose a corporate lawyer about his work for a hoist manufacturer. I remember getting thrown out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for taking photos of the Cher exhibit for Missi. In my defense, however, it was the Indian outfit.

I represented the Estate of a young man killed while working between a truck frame and the lifted truck bed. The hydraulic controls were accidentally activated and he was caught in what is known in industry parlance as a “pinch point accident”. The autopsy photos were some of the most difficult I’ve had to look at.

You don’t often get to depose a lawyer about his client files. The deposition took place at an office near the Cleveland Indians’ ballpark. Dad came along because he was deposing an engineer in the same case the next day in Cleveland so we game planned all morning drinking too much coffee. There were a dozen or so large bankers boxes lining the wall of the conference room. Tantalizing, but I knew the odds were low that I was getting into them that day.

The lawyer witness had helped the hoist manufacturer prepare their discovery responses. The first – under oath – insisted they knew nothing about the hoist. The second hemmed and hawed a little, admitting that they might know something about the hoist but could not be sure (“Could you ask more specifically?”). The third went back to the first – denial – but interestingly omitted any answer from one of the companies involved. A bankruptcy in Michigan for one of the companies and a Purchase Agreement taking no liabilities on behalf of yet another company were continuing obstacles to getting any meaningful information from the people who made the hoist. This went on for more than five years.

Then, we found out these companies had inspected the truck with their own expert – four times and a year before there was even a claim. Not only that, the inspections were for the different companies that happened (fortuitously for us) to be insured by the same insurance carrier. Assigning the case to multiple adjusters and multiple law firms was the strategy behind the deniability. They were pretending not to have shared any of the information and kept passing the hot potato as to who had the information about the hoist in the first place. This witness was obviously behind all of the shenanigans that took place afterward.

I took all day and never got into the boxes. I didn’t need to. When we got back from Cleveland, the Judge struck their defenses.

We privately focus grouped the case for the client later and the results were staggering. The case settled for a confidential amount.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, don’t hire your lawyer from the television. Make sure your lawyer is personally experienced litigating and trying complex cases. A product liability case requires knowledge of science, engineering and other complex issues. In addition, you can expect the other side to mislead you to avoid financial responsibility. This may require your personal injury lawyer to be adept at bankruptcy, merger and acquisitions, purchase agreements, security filings and other business documents that will help you cut through the jungle of shell corporations and other mechanisms used by corporate lawyers to shield their clients from liability.

You can watch my YouTube video on Product Liability here and visit our web page detailing our Product Liability experience here.

The Thompson Law Firm