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Palm Beach County, FL

@INTRO = The 32-year-old decedent was allegedly cleaning out a truck-mounted concrete mixer, manufactured by the defendant, when he was found dead with his head and upper torso trapped inside the rear of the mixer by the mixing blades. The plaintiff alleged that the concrete mixer was defectively designed by the defendant in that it lacked a cover for the opening of the mixer, which would have allegedly prevented the decedent’s death. The defense denied that the concrete mixer was defective and disputed the plaintiff’s version of how the decedent’s death occurred.

The decedent was a concrete mixer operator with eight years of experience and training at the time of his death. The plaintiff alleged that the decedent was attempting to clean the inside of a truck-mounted concrete mixer with a water hose attached to the vehicle. The plaintiff claimed that the hose became caught in the blades of the mixer and pulled the decedent inside the mixing area where he was killed by the sharp, turning blades. The decedent was discovered dead by a co-worker with his head inside the mixing bowl of the concrete mixer and massive crush injuries to his head. The co-worker then turned off the mixer. The decedent was survived by his dependent mother and a daughter, age 16 at the time of his death.

The plaintiff’s experts opined that the decedent had wrapped himself in the hose prior to dropping it and that the decedent was entangled in the hose which pulled him into the blades. The plaintiff showed still photos of reenactments demonstrating the plaintiff expert’s theory of how the fatality occurred. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the opening to the mixing area of the concrete mixer should have included a safety guard, which would have completely covered the opening and prevented the decedent from being pulled into the sharp blades.

The plaintiff offered several alternative designs through two different experts. The alternative designs included two metal grates which covered the discharge area ("the hole") for the concrete mixer. Both metal grates were fabricated and brought into the courtroom by the plaintiff. The plaintiff also offered alternative designs that reconfigured the platform provided by the defendant manufacturer at the rear of the concrete mixer and designs that reconfigured the positioning of the concrete mixer itself so that the discharge area was at the front of the truck that the mixer was mounted upon.

The defendant argued that the accident could not have occurred as alleged by the plaintiff because, if the hose had become caught in the blades of the mixer, the hose would have broken. The defendant claimed that the revolving blades would not have pulled the decedent inside the mixing bowl, even assuming the hose was indestructible; because such a scenario defied the laws of physics. The defense offered a computer simulation designed to show that the plaintiff’s theory of the accident was impossible.

The defendant argued that it was more likely than not that the decedent had voluntarily positioned himself in danger by standing on the chute of the mixer which was in contradiction to his training, experience, common sense and multiple warnings provided by the defendant and the decedent’s employer. The defense contended that the concrete mixer was safe for its intended purpose, there were numerous warnings on the mixer and in the operator manual and that the decedent was well aware of the dangers associated with entering the mixing area with the blades running. The defense contended that the drum opening in the mixer is guarded by the "washout guard." The washout guard is located where the platform is provided by the manufacturer to conduct a wash down procedure. The washout guard is positioned between where a concrete mixer operator should stand and the opening to the drum.

Further, the defense argued that the plaintiff’s alternative designs covering the drum opening destroyed the utility of the mixer. The discharge area for the concrete also functions as an access point and observation point for various daily procedures, according to the defense. The defense maintained that the concrete mixer can be safely operated with the drum opening uncovered.

The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant in designing a defective concrete mixer which was a legal cause of the decedent’s death.

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