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Alleged fork-lift design defect - Dangerous operator controls - Lack of mast guard - Near amputation of right arm above elbow.

Delaware County

This action involved a products liability claim arising from a work-related fork-lift accident on January 31, ________. The plaintiff claimed that the accident resulted from the defective design of a fork-lift manufactured by the defendant. The defendant argued that the accident was caused by misuse of the product and a lack of proper training.

The plaintiff was operating the defendant’s Hyster Model H135XL fork-lift as part of his job at a steel mill in Claymont Delaware.

On the day of the accident, the plaintiff’s sixth day on the job, he extended his right arm into the mast assembly of the fork-lift while standing in the operator’s compartment to grab the handle of a "hopper" elevated on the forks of the fork-lift. As the plaintiff extended his arm through the mass assembly, he activated the lift-lower control lever and the carriage moved down pinching his right arm at or above the right elbow joint.

The plaintiff’s mechanical engineer testified that the fork-lift was defectively designed in that the operator controls were dangerous placed and not guarded and that the mast lacked a guard.

The plaintiff suffered a near amputation of the right arm at the elbow joint as a result of the accident. He claimed a permanent complete disability from employment.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff ignored the operating instructions and warnings on the fork-lift by extending his arm into the mast assembly. The defense also maintained that the operator controls and mast assembly were properly and safely designed and that the plaintiff was not properly trained by his employer pursuant to OSHA regulations.

The jury found for the defendant. The case was previously tried resulting in a mistrial after the jury became dead-locked. The case is currently on appeal. The plaintiff argues that introduction of OSHA standards, which apply to employers only, was inappropriate.

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