George S. Hodges Obtains Defense Verdict in a Product Liability Action

February 22, 2016 09:19 PM
George S. Hodges

IADC Past President George Hodges, a senior partner at Hodges Walsh & Messemer LLP, recently attained a jury verdict for the defense in a product liability action. In a case entitled Markel Insurance a/so/ Chai Lifeline v. Wascomat Industries, a Sullivan County New York jury found that there was no liability on the part of Wascomat for a fire which occurred in or near a commercial dryer sold by Wascomat several weeks before the fire occurred. Damages of more than $6 million dollars were incurred although the subrogation action was limited to approximately $2.7 million dollars. For whatever reason, the property owners did not bring an action for damages beyond insurance reimbursement.

Plaintiff’s Complaint alleged product liability related claims as to the Model TD-75 commercial clothes dryer purchased form Wascomat, a distributor of laundry equipment. The dryer was manufactured by White Consolidated Industries for which Wascomat was a dealer. Plaintiff’s argument as to his claims was premised upon a contention that the dryer was new, did not work correctly and a fire occurred and therefore there had to be a defect in the dryer which resulted in the fire igniting. Wascomat produced as an expert witness Samuel Sudlor, P.E., an Electrical Engineer with SEA, Ltd. who testified as to the absence of electrical activity which would have been indicative of the fire origin area and potential source of the fire in any of the wiring located within the dryer. Mr. Sudlor also testified that the dryer thermostats were in the “off” position and did not exhibit evidence of any electrical failure or malfunction.

The case was tried on a bifurcated basis with the issue of liability being considered first. The jury brought in a verdict for the defense in less than an hour after the case was submitted. No appeal has been taken from that verdict.

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