Working as a mechanic in a kitchen appliance manufacturing plant, Steven Lester performed maintenance on a hydraulic scissor lift, which was owned by his employer. Presto Lifts, Inc. designed, manufactured and distributed the lift, equipped with a safety velocity fuse, which was manufactured by Vonberg Valve, Inc. The safety velocity fuse was designed to prevent the lift platform from collapsing during a loss of hydraulic pressure. It was alleged that hydraulic fluid leaked from the area where the fuse attached to the base of the hydraulic cylinder, to which Lester responded in order to repair the leak.
When Lester gained access to the fuse and cylinder, the lift platform was in the “up” position. The lift was not equipped with safety or maintenance chocks to block the platform in a raised position. As Lester was accessing the area where the fuse connected to the base of the cylinder so he could check the tightness of the connection, the fuse fractured at the threaded connection point. That is when the hydraulic fluid leaked out, causing the cylinder to suddenly retract under the force of gravity. The lift table collapsed on Lester’s (dominant) right hand.
The 59-year-old suffered multiple injuries, including compound fractures of the distal radius and ulna and severed tendons in his right wrist. He underwent open reduction internal fixation of the fractures and surgery to re-attach the tendons. This was followed by physical therapy. Lester continues to experience pain and suffers restricted range of motion in his wrist. He returned to light-duty work six months after the incident, but still has not resumed his pre-injury job duties.
Worker’s compensation paid his past medical expenses and past lost earnings in the amount of $221,200.
Lester sued Vonberg Valve, Inc. and Presto Lifts, Inc. in separate suits, alleging strict liability and negligence; the cases were consolidated for discovery. The plaintiff alleged that the fuse in question, manufactured by Vonberg—featuring both a JIC-threaded male end and a pipe-threaded male end—was defectively designed. Additionally, the plaintiff contended that the fuses’ male pipe-threaded ends were not designed to withstand the physical forces the fuse endured. Due to the design flaws, too much stress was placed on the fuse, resulting in its fracture and catastrophic collapse of the lift.
Lester also asserted that the fuse should not have featured a male pipe-thread end at all, and in order to prevent an unexpected collapse, the fuse should have been comprised of two female ends.
In the suit against Presto, Lester alleged that (1) the absence of a chocking system physically affixed to the lift rendered it dangerously defective by design, and (2) the application of sealant to the end of the fuse during assembly of the lift was improper and caused or contributed to the fuse’s failure. It was also alleged that Presto was negligent in failure to design a chocking system for the lift or incorporate one of its already existing chocking systems, since it was expected that users would attempt to service and maintain the lift while it was elevated.
The defendants denied that the lift or fuse were defective and argued that the incident resulted from Lester’s negligence in performing the repair.
The parties reportedly settled before trial for $205,000.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury as a result of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Manufacturers and distributors of goods must be held responsible when their products endanger consumers. Product liability claims force the makers and sellers of goods to consider consumer safety in everything they do. Product liability claims have forced countless companies to make better and safer products, thereby protecting future consumers from injury or death. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) for more information.