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Texas Court of Appeals Affirms Ruling Against Man Injured By Falling Air Compressor

The Texas Court of Appeals of the First District recently affirmed a trial court’s summary judgment motion against a plaintiff injured by an air compressor box at Lowe’s.

In Carpenter v. Campbell Hausfeld Company, Dwayne Carpenter was shopping for an air compressor at a nearby Lowe’s store in 2009. He tried to load a 1.2 HP 20-Gallon 125 PSI Electric Air Compressor, manufactured by Campbell Hausfeld, into his cart when the strap surrounding the compressor box suddenly broke. The box fell on Carpenter and sent him to the floor, causing him to injure his leg, left hip, arm, and shoulder.

Afterward, Carpenter filed a strict product liability lawsuit against the air compressor’s manufacturer, claiming that the strap was designed defectively, which made the air compressor unreasonably dangerous. In turn, Campbell Hausfeld filed for summary judgment, claiming that Carpenter had provided no evidence to support his lawsuit. Campbell Hausfeld put forth the elements of strict products liability, followed by the elements of a claim premised on a design defect and the statutory requirements for proving a “safer alternative design.” The manufacturer argued that Carpenter not only did not produce evidence of a product defect, but it also failed to produce evidence of a safer alternative design. Campbell Hausfeld argued further that Carpenter failed to argue that its actions were the cause of his injuries, or provide evidence of any damages.

Carpenter countered that there was evidence that the air compressor shipped without the requisite number of safety straps, and that the straps included were not strong enough to secure a 108-pound air compressor. Since the other air compressors manufactured by Campbell Hausfeld in the Lowe’s store had two straps, this indicated that two straps were needed to secure an air compressor. Carpenter also introduced an unsworn exhibit that described the air compressor box and strap but did not provide any physical evidence, such as photos or the box itself. Campbell Hausfeld claimed that Carpenter failed to produce evidence of the straps’ intended purpose, or that two straps would have prevented his accident.

In response, Carpenter filed an amended complaint that added a premises liability claim against Lowe’s and a negligence claim against Campbell Hausfeld. The trial court ultimately granted Campbell Hausfeld’s summary judgment motion on all claims, dismissing the case. Carpenter appealed.

The Court of Appeals noted that, under Texas law, proof of a product failure alone is not sufficient enough to raise a fact question about whether the product was defective when it left the manufacturer. When Carpenter claimed that the product was defective, he focused only on the packaging, not on the components of the air compressor. Since Carpenter failed to provide evidence that the product left the manufacturer with one strap, as opposed to being interfered with on the way from the manufacturer to the store, his product liability claim had nothing to support it. The Court of Appeals therefore granted Campbell Hausfeld’s motion for summary judgment. The ruling also applied to Carpenter’s newly added negligence claim because the lack of evidence for the product liability claim could also be applied to the negligence one.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a product malfunction, you may be entitled to compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to help. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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