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From Products Liability Law Daily, June 7, 2013

Expert’s Report Sufficient to Support Defective Design Claims Against Hydraulic Cylinder Maker

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

A purchaser of a hydraulic cylinder used in a mower provided sufficient expert testimony in support of his products liability claims to raise a question of fact as whether the cylinder had been defectively or negligently designed, a federal district court in Texas ruled (Fallon v. Grizzly Industrial, Inc., June 5, 2013, Judge, J.). However, the court found no evidence to support the purchaser’s claims that the cylinder contained a manufacturing defect or to raise a question of fact with regard to his marketing defect claim.

Background. According to the complaint (Civil Action No. 4:12-cv-00174, March 27, 2012), James Fallon purchased a hydraulic cylinder that had been manufactured by Grizzly Industrial and installed it on a bat-wing mower to replace a cylinder that had broken. Several months later, the purchaser and his wife were injured when the cylinder raised one side of the mower (like it had done several times before the accident) and, as the mower reached the top, a flange on the cylinder broke, causing the heavy mower side to fall on top of the Fallons who were standing close by.

Alternative design. Generally, in order to support a products liability claim for defective design, a plaintiff must provide competent expert testimony and objective proof that a defect caused the harm. The report by the purchaser’s expert met the standard of proof needed to raise a jury question as to whether there was a design defect in the cylinder. In addition, the expert’s report stated that there were alternative designs for the product and, while he acknowledged that there might be a percentage increase in cost, the court found that there was enough evidence on this issue to send it to the jury.

Marketing defect claim. The court explained that a marketing defect occurs when a manufacturer knew or should have known of a potential risk of harm presented by the nature of the product but markets it without adequately warning of the danger or providing instructions for safe use. The court applied a five-prong test to determine whether a plaintiff had established a five-prong marketing test. In reviewing the reports submitted by the purchaser, the court found that there was not enough evidence to create an issue of fact on this claim. Thus, the court granted the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment on the defective marketing claim.

The case number is: 4:12cn174.

Attorneys: James G Marks (Guajardo & Marks, LLP) for Fallon; Paul Ashley Grinke (McCathern Mooty Hyde Grinke, LLP) for Direct Distributors, Inc.

Companies: Grizzly Industrial, Inc.; Direct Distributors, Inc. d/b/a Agmate; Agri-Supply Company.

MainStory: TopStory DesignManufacturingNews WarningsNews HouseholdProductsNews TexasNews

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