IADC Members Michael J. Wiggins and Michael Correnti of McDonald Toole Wiggins, P.A., received a defense verdict on behalf of Crown Equipment Corporation on October 14, 2021 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. The verdict came after two weeks of trial to an eight member jury, which returned the verdict unanimously.
The jury rejected Plaintiffs’ claims in a product liability suit against Crown, a forklift manufacturer based in New Bremen, Ohio. The jury deliberated for approximately three hours and voted 8-0 in favor of Crown and against Plaintiffs Alexander McHale and his wife Ashley McHale. The lawsuit was based on a March 2015 accident involving a Crown stand-up rider RC5500 lift truck at Amazon’s fulfillment center warehouse in Lakeland, Florida. On that day, Mr. McHale was operating the Crown RC5500 and placed his left foot outside the forklift’s operator compartment resulting in a crush injury when his foot became caught between the forklift and a steel end cap. Mr. McHale sustained a below the knee amputation resulting from the accident. Plaintiffs sought approximately $15 million in damages primarily based upon past medical expenses, future medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Plaintiffs claimed the forklift’s design was defective primarily based upon the open operator compartment. Plaintiffs further alleged that alternative designs, including an operator compartment door and changes to the brake pedal design, would have made the design of the RC5500 reasonably safe. Crown defended against these allegations by proving that the open operator compartment was reasonably safe and appropriate, particularly given the significant risks that are introduced with the addition of an operator compartment door. Moreover, Crown also proved that the design of the RC5500 was not the cause of Plaintiff’s injury. In doing so, Crown relied on testimony from its accident reconstruction expert, John “Danny” Olivas, Ph.D., PE, with Olivas & Associates in Manhattan Beach, California, and its biomechanical expert, Dr. Elizabeth Raphael, MD, with Delta V Biomechanics, Inc. in Palo Alto, California. Crown also presented testimony from its Director of Product Safety, Ron Grisez from New Bremen, Ohio, to prove its defense.
Crown’s General Counsel is IADC member and former IADC Board of Directors member John Maxa.