Louis Charette Obtains Victory for Emerson Electric Canada, Inc.

October 18, 2016 05:06 PM
Louis Charette

Louis Charette, of Lavery, De Billy, L.L.P., obtained a victory for his client, Emerson Electric Canada, Inc. (“Emerson”), in the Court of Quebec, District of Montreal. The plaintiff Chartis Insurance Company insured Automatisation JRT (“JRT”), the designer and manufacturer of elevator control panels that incorporated a “speed drive” designed and manufactured by Emerson to control and regulate the speed of the elevator motor.

After a number of fires occurred in elevator control panels manufactured by JRT, it claimed that a defect in Emerson’s speed drives caused them to overheat and catch on fire. JRT incurred damages in the amount of $171,613.00 to repair and recall the model speed drives involved. Chartis, as its insurer, indemnified JRT for a portion of those expenses which it then sought to recover from Emerson.

In its defense, Emerson contended that the elevator control panel fires and the claimed damages resulted from a design flaw in JRT’s control panels, not from any defect in Emerson’s speed drives. Emerson also asserted that JRT ignored the recommendation in the Emerson speed drive manual to incorporate a thermal protective device in the control panel to avoid the type of overheating and fires that occurred.

The case was tried to the Court on September 23–25, 2015, and closing arguments took place on November 18, 2015. On November 30, 2015, the court issued its judgment dismissing the claim against Emerson in its entirety and awarding costs, including expert fees in the amount of $35,410.00, to Emerson as the prevailing party. Noting that under Quebec product liability law a defect is presumed in a product that prematurely fails and that the burden of proof is then shifted to the manufacturer to prove that the failure occurred due to improper use by the purchaser, the court found that JRT had failed to follow Emerson’s recommendation to use a thermal protector in its control panels, thereby contributing to the fires. The court also found that JRT did not install the proper speed drive model in its control panels and failed to use the speed drives in such a way as to avoid damaging them. In other words, the problem was the design of JRT’s elevator control panels, not Emerson’s speed drives. Judgment was therefore entered in favor of Emerson, from which the plaintiff Chartis did not appeal.

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