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ARTICLE ID 32681

$________ - PRODUCTS LIABILITY - FAILURE TO PROPERLY SECURE COMBINATION STEP/BATTERY HOUSING BOX ON TRUCK - ________ POUND PLAINTIFF FALLS WHEN ASSEMBLY SHIFTS - VERTEBRAL FRACTURES SUPERIMPOSED ON PREVIOUSLY ASYMPTOMATIC SPINAL STENOSIS - NEED FOR CANE TO AMBULATE - PLAINTIFF AFRAID TO UNDERGO SURGERY ENTAILING REMOVAL OF BONE AND INTRODUCTION OF HARDWARE INTO SPINAL CANAL WITH SIGNIFICANT RISK OF PARALYSIS - INABILITY TO CONTINUE WORKING.

Middlesex County

In this action, the male plaintiff trucker in his 50s contended that the truck/tractor manufactured by the defendant was defectively designed because the battery box housing, which doubled as a step, was secured by a single strap when the first model built one year earlier was secured by two straps on either side of the subject step/battery box.

The plaintiff contended that as a result, the single strap inadvertently disengaged and the step came out of its slots, causing him to lose his balance and fall directly onto his back, suffering several fractured ribs and fractures to the transverse processes in the lumbar and thoracic areas superimposed on previously asymptomatic spinal stenosis. The plaintiff contended that he developed severe radiating pain and weakness which continued to progress despite conservative care and that he has great difficulties ambulating. The plaintiff contended that the proposed surgery is very risky and maintained that he will permanently suffer severe pain and difficulties ambulating.

The evidence disclosed that the plaintiff weighed ________ lbs. and that the step/battery housing unit was designed to hold ________ lbs. There was no claim that having this unit act as both a step and a battery housing rendered it defective. The subject step/battery box assembly has slots which fit over pins and the original design provided for a strap on either side of the unit to keep it secured in the event it dislodged due to vibration. The plaintiff maintained that although the ________ model, which was the first model manufactured, contained straps on either side of the unit, the step/battery box in the ________ model with which the plaintiff was working was wider and deeper and contained only one strap in front. The plaintiff maintained that the design utilizing only one strap rendered the vehicle defective because the single strap was in an area in which it could be inadvertently disengaged and, therefore, defeated the redundancy provided by the use of two side straps. The plaintiff contended that as he was exiting the truck, the unit disengaged and he fell 3-4 feet from the tractor directly onto his back.

The defendant contended that the truck was properly designed and maintained that because of appropriate changes in the dimensions of the step/battery box unit, there would be insufficient room for two straps on either side. The plaintiff denied that this position should be accepted and maintained that the new design had holes drilled into the assembly to accommodate two straps and that it would have only cost some $28 to add the additional strap. The plaintiff produced the actual step/battery box in court and argued that the jury could determine that a strap on either side would, in fact, fit.

The defendant established that the plaintiff failed to check if the strap was secure and although the jury could not consider comparative negligence under Sutur, the defendant argued that the sole proximate cause of the fall was the plaintiff’s failure to do so. The plaintiff, who admitted that he did not generally check the strap, contended that the step had felt stable all day and argued that if the defendant had properly secured the unit with a redundant system of two straps, the incident would simply not have occurred.

The plaintiff contended that he suffered several fractured ribs as well as fractures to the transverse processes in the lumbar and thoracic areas. The plaintiff contended that he developed severe, radiating pain after the accident and that testing revealed very significant spinal stenosis, which the plaintiff maintained had previously been asymptomatic. The plaintiff contended that he developed severe pain which radiated down his legs and that he required a walker for approximately one year. The plaintiff then graduated to a cane, which he indicated he continues to use.

The plaintiff’s physician maintained that scar tissue has developed, causing further stenosis. The plaintiff’s physician contended that repair surgery would entail a decompression involving the removal of bone and the installation of hardware in an area of the spinal canal that was very vulnerable because of the close proximity of the nerve bundle and that such an operation carries a significant risks of paralysis. The plaintiff indicated that he has declined to undergo the surgery.

The plaintiff, who did not graduate from high school, maintained that his talents and inclinations gear him towards physical labor. The plaintiff was earning approximately $________ per year including extensive overtime and made past and future economic claims of $________.

The defendant maintained that in view of the plaintiff’s weight and the spinal stenosis, it was likely that the current difficulties would have nonetheless occurred. The plaintiff countered that he had worked approximately ________ hours overtime during each of the two years preceding the accident and maintained that the defendant’s position in this regard should be rejected. The defendant also maintained that the plaintiff could perform lighter, sedentary work, such as truck dispatcher.

The plaintiff presented his employer who testified that the plaintiff had been an excellent worker as a trucker and that he wished that he could retain him, but that it was clear that the plaintiff was not suited for dispatch work.

The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $________ for pain and suffering and $________ for lost wages.

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