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U.S. District Court, Eastern Dist. of Pa.

The plaintiff, a diesel mechanic in his early age 40s at the time of injury, filed this products liability action against the manufacturer of a Coats 40-40 SA tire changer, alleging that the machine was defectively designed so that its table top acted as a "launching pad" in the event of a tire explosion. The plaintiff claimed that he was struck in the elbow by the tire or rim of an exploding tire, sustaining a comminuted elbow fracture requiring two total elbow replacements. The defendant argued that the product was not defective and that the plaintiff’s injury was due to overinflation of the tire and tire bead failure. The defendant also contended that the plaintiff’s injury was due to hyperextension of the elbow not from contact with the tire or rim.

The plaintiff testified that about one month before his accident he opened his own auto repair shop in Chester, Pa. On November 11, ________, the plaintiff said he was asked by a customer to remove an old tire from a rim and place what appeared to be a new tire on the rim. The plaintiff removed the old tire from the rim using a coats 40-40 SA tire changer and placed the new tire on the rim. The plaintiff testified that he inflated the tire to 35 PSI, released the hold down cone and grasped the tire with both hands in order to lift it off the tire changing table when the tire suddenly exploded. Upon explosion, the plaintiff contended that either the tire or rim struck him in the left elbow, that he was forcefully thrown backwards and did not recall anything else until he woke up in the hospital the next day with an external fixator attached to his left arm.

The plaintiff claimed that as far back as ________, the defendant manufacturer was aware that in the event of a tire explosion the table top of their tire changing machines acted as a thrusting surface which propelled an exploding tire upward with greater force than if the tire was allowed to raise up off the table at the time of explosion. The jury was shown videotapes of tests performed by the defendant on its own tire changers in ________ which depicted tires exploding and launching in the air up to 85 feet.

The videotapes also showed tests where tires which were raised above the table top only exploded to heights of two to three feet in the air. The plaintiff’s biomechanical engineer testified that if the tire was raised above the table when it exploded instead of being in direct contact with the changing machine, the forces exerted upon explosion would have been reduced by as much as 98%.

The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff suffered a severe comminuted fracture of the left elbow as a result of a portion of the tire and/or rim striking his elbow and that approximately ________ pieces of bone were extracted upon initial surgery. The plaintiff underwent two total elbow replacements in the past five years, according to testimony presented. The plaintiff’s vocational expert testified that the plaintiff can never return to employment as a mechanic, but may be able to obtain employment at a salary approximately $________ to $________ per year less then he earned as a mechanic.

The defendant’s designee, called by the plaintiff in his case in chief, testified that the tire explosion injuries occur because of overinflation of the tires, tire bead failure and operator negligence. This expert opined that jet propulsion was the reason for the forces exerted at the time of an explosion and that the table top surface was inconsequential. The plaintiff rebutted the experts theory by his own testimony in another case in which the expert stated that the jet propulsion theory was an erroneous theory. The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon testified that he had an extensive background in investigation explosions in Viet Nam and that the plaintiff’s hand had to be in a position different than alleged at the time of the explosion, because his injuries were due to a hyperextension of the elbow and not from contact with the tire or rim. The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________, which included $________ to the plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium. Plaintiff’s petition for delay damages is pending.

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