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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms $3.4 Million Verdict in Recent Product Liability Case

Earlier this month, the federal circuit court overseeing the federal district courts in Texas issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing several pertinent issues for Texas product liability plaintiffs. The case required the court to determine if a jury’s $3.4 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff was supported by sufficient evidence. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s evidence did support the jury’s verdict, and thus the verdict was affirmed on appeal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, through his wife, filed a product liability lawsuit against his employer as well as the manufacturer of a crane that the plaintiff was operating at the time of his accident. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered a serious injury when the counterweights attached to a crane he was operating slid into the operator’s cab, knocking the plaintiff out of the cab and sending him head-first onto the concrete eight feet below.

The plaintiff claimed that the crane manufacturer was liable under a “failure to warn” theory. Essentially, the plaintiff’s argument was that the manufacturer’s included warnings failed to fully inform users of the risks involved with the crane tipping over. Additionally, the plaintiff argued that alternative warnings would have better informed him and may have prevented the accident.

The crane manufacturer argued that its warnings were sufficient and that the plaintiff was misusing the crane in the moments before the accident, and that this misuse was the real cause of the accident. The case proceeded to trial, where a jury awarded the plaintiff a total of $8 million in compensation. Because the jury determined that the crane manufacturer was 40% at fault, the manufacturer’s responsibility was $3.4 million. The crane manufacturer appealed the jury’s verdict.

The Appellate Decision

The manufacturer made several arguments on appeal in favor of reversing the jury’s verdict. However, the court ultimately affirmed the verdict, rejecting each of the manufacturer’s claims.

First, the manufacturer argued that its general warnings discussing the general hazards associated with tipping were sufficient. However, the court explained that in order to be sufficient, a warning must warn of the specific risk that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. Here, there was no warning discussing the sliding of the crane’s counterweights. Further, the plaintiff presented several other crane operators as witnesses who testified that they were not aware of the possibility that the counterweights could slide until this accident.

Next, the manufacturer argued that the plaintiff’s misuse of the crane resulted in the accident. Again, the court rejected this argument. The court explained that, while there was conflicting evidence regarding potential misuse, the jury was acting within its role when it resolved the case in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained that it is not a court’s job to substitute its own judgment in place of the jury’s when the evidence presented could support multiple conclusions.

Have You Been Injured Due to a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been seriously injured while using a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Texas product liability lawsuit. At the San Antonio personal injury law firm of Carabin Shaw, we represent injury victims in all kinds of Texas personal injury and wrongful death cases, including product liability claims. To learn more, call 210-222-2288 to schedule a free consultation today.

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