Product Liability Cases *

In General

Michigan has a Products Liability Act (statutory law) that defines key elements of claims involving defective products.  There is also a large body of traditional law called “common law”.  In recent years, largely due to political agendas, the law of products liability in Michigan has been changed.  We have seen the rights of victims of horribly defective products limited in specific ways.  For this reason, we do significant analysis and research for products liability claims, and we often invest significant money to retain an expert; we obtain patent records; we acquire “recall” and regulatory materials.  It is important for the client – if you anticipate filing a claim – not to make statements to insurance investigators or others who may be working against your best interests.  The citation for the product liability act is MCL 600.2945 et seq.  The statute of limitations for filing a product liability claim is generally 3 years, although there are some exceptions.

Defective personal watercraft: $3.4 million verdict

The front hood of a Polaris personal watercraft flew off – striking the client in the face – causing fractures and a closed head injury.  The client gamely tried to return to his “normal” life – operating a small trucking business – while undergoing extensive surgery and rehabilitation.  Although he earned as much as before, his costs increased due to new hires.  We researched the product history with public agencies and discovered there had been a recall for a defective component of the hood latch.  After a $350,000 offer was rejected, the case proceeded to trial in Kalkaska County, and we obtained the largest recorded personal injury verdict in the region.  The presentation of demonstrative medical exhibits – and a careful explanation of future wage earning loss – proved important.  Read News Article  (may take a minute to download)

Broken guard on sanding machine:  $350,000 settlement

A young man suffered a very serious hand injury when his hand was dragged into a belt sander,
after the guard came open.  Although he was able to return to work, the man endured extensive surgery and pain.  The machine had been manufactured by a defunct corporation years before; it had been sold several times; someone had modified the latch on the guard.   Our research uncovered the history of the machine, which had been sold at auction in California.  Eventually, we were able to show by a preponderance of evidence that a prior company had modified the guard, and obtained a favorable settlement.  (Note, our “computer animation” of the incident helped prove how the man’s hand was dragged into an outward-rotating belt.)

Defective lift crushes factory worker:  Confidential structured settlement

A young father who was a wonderful long-term employee was killed when a scissor-lift bucket he was using to repair overhead pipes crushed him against an overhead pipe.  The company that originally designed the machine had gone out of business and there was no insurance.  The keys to the case were: 1)  We retained the machine and a good expert; 2) Through corporate records and the International website, we found that a successor corporation had purchased the assets of the original company.  Our research uncovered a $1,000,000 insurance policy that provided coverage for the incident. 

Partial amputation of left thumb:  $280,000 settlement

A confidential settlement was reached with an anonymous hand tool manufacturer.  The screw holding the guard on an electric hand tool came loose, and the guard shattered, partially amputating the client’s thumb.  We exposed a “cover-up” by the manufacturer who was sanctioned by the Court. 

“Kit” bookcase tips over on infant:  $275,000 settlement

A 2 year old infant playing in front of a “kit” bookcase purchased at a discount department store –
and assembled by the parent – tipped over and struck the infant, killing her.  What seemed like an “act of God” proved to be a terrible design error.  With our expert’s help, we analyzed the loading and tipping characteristics of this particular bookshelf, which proved to be abnormally narrow – and therefore abnormally tip-prone.  As a result of this lawsuit, the company now includes a wall bracket and screw, to prevent tip-overs,  (Two Notes:  1) Careful research of government regulations and consumer safety documents disclosed other furniture tip-over incidents; 2)  We created a “computer animation” of the incident that proved the loading and tipping sequence that resulted in the tragedy.)

* These product liability cases are chosen from many more, to illustrate some of the variety of issues we have dealt with. 

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