Chicago Man’s Crushed Leg Brings $1.8 Million in Product Liability Action

A Chicago product liability suit that I tried recently resulted in $1.8 million verdict to a 40 year old Chicago man whose leg was crushed on an assembly line. Many interesting legal issues arose including who should be placed on the jury verdict form regarding apportioning fault among defendants, third party defendants, and plaintiff (see previous post regarding this issue). In 2002 plaintiff was working on an assembly line that produced laminated boards for use as countertops and cabinets. At the end of the laminating line there was a scissors lift table which received the completed boards and which was operated by a foot switch.

While guiding boards onto the scissors lift plaintiff accidentally stepped on the foot switch causing the table to lower while his foot was underneath. The boards and table weighed over 1,500 lbs. and crushed his right leg. Plaintiff sustained fracture of tibial plateau, bimalleolar fracture of ankle requiring six surgeries and ultimately fusion of his knee. Plaintiff, a former drug user, complicated his medical condition by injecting Oxycontin into his right arm in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve pain, thus leading to osteomyelitis in his right leg.

Jury found that the scissors lift and foot switch were unreasonably dangerous in that foot switch was designed and installed under the scissors lift table making the crushing of an operator’s leg foreseeable. Jury found both the installer and manufacturer responsible under product liability law and further found that plaintiff’s damages should be reduced from $1.9 million to $1.8 million based upon plaintiff’s 5% contributory negligence. Fortunately post trial issues were resolved quickly, and the plaintiff received his compensation several weeks after the jury returned its verdict