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ARTICLE ID 162101

$________ - PRODUCT LIABILITY - FAILURE TO INCORPORATE SAFETY FEATURES IN CUSTOM BUILT TREE TRIMMING TRUCK - HYDRAULIC OUTRIGGER DESCENDS ONTO FOOT - SEVERE CRUSH INJURY TO FRONT OF FOOT - AMPUTATION OF ALL TOES AND PORTION OF FOOT.

Warren County, NJ

This action involved a plaintiff county laborer, who had been assigned that day as a helper for the tree trimming crew. The plaintiff was asked to retrieve a wrench from the built-in tool box on one side of the truck, which was equipped with a "cherry picker" lift and a set of four hydraulically controlled outriggers for stabilization. The outriggers were controlled by a handle on the other side of the truck. The plaintiff walked to the tool box moments after a supervisor looked under the truck to ascertain if anyone was standing on the side. As the plaintiff was looking for the tool, the supervisor activated the handle and one of the outriggers descended, crushing his foot. The plaintiff named the company who contracted with the County to prepare the truck per specifications and the manufacturer of the outriggers as defendants, contending the warnings regarding the need for installing the outriggers in such a manner that an individual activating the controls could adequately see all sides of the vehicle, were inadequate.

The plaintiff maintained that the truck was "blind by design," and that separate controls should have been provided for each side of the truck. The plaintiff’s expert engineer also maintained that the tool box should have contained an interlocking device which would prevent activation of the outriggers if the box was open. The plaintiff’s expert also maintained that the truck should have incorporated an audible alarm system.

The defendants maintained that the truck as supplied was appropriate. The defendant contended that a worker could see the other side of the truck. The plaintiff countered that a worker could only do so if he leaned in a specific direction and contended that it was doubtful if a busy worker would remember to do so. The defendants also contended that the plaintiff could not point to any applicable regulations or specific standards that required the safety devices advanced by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff contended that the specifications supplied by the County called for split controls of the outriggers involving a handle on each side of the truck and that the safety feature was not incorporated into the truck. The plaintiff’s expert engineer would have further maintained that under principles of safe practices, safeguards such as split controls, an interlocking tool box and an audible alarm should have been included.

The plaintiff was wearing steel plated boots. The plaintiff contended, however, that the force of the impact of the descending outrigger caused severe crush injuries to the toes and forefoot. The plaintiff maintained that despite a series of surgeries, the plaintiff ultimately required the surgical amputation of the toes and forefoot.

The plaintiff contended that in view of his age, a limited education and experience in physical labor, he will be permanently unemployable. The plaintiff obtained a disability package, and his losses after accounting for such benefits ranged from $________ to $________. The plaintiff contended that ambulating and retaining balance are difficult. The plaintiff maintained that prior to the incident, he was an avid hunter and fisherman and that he has been forced to give up such activities. The plaintiff also would have argued that the jury should consider that he must be careful to avoid suffering ulcerations to the foot.

The case settled prior to trial for $________, including $________ from the defendant county and $________ from the co-defendant outrigger manufacturer.

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