October 01, 2013

$3.5 Million Awarded for Product Liability Action

Ralph Dewsnup, David Olsen and Jessica Andrew of the Salt Lake City law firm Dewsnup, King & Olsen, obtained a verdict of over $3.5 million in a products liability action against Terex USA, LLC, the manufacturer of a defective rock crusher that caused permanent injury to Mr. Larry Kirkbride.

The rock crusher, which was operating at a sand and gravel pit in Salt Lake County at the time of Mr. Kirkbride?۪s injury, crushed large rocks into small rocks by means of two manganese-lined jaws. The jaw crusher was equipped with a failsafe safety device, a toggle plate, which was designed to act as a safety fuse and break when the crusher encountered uncrushable material, thus releasing stored energy that could build up even when the crusher was turned off.

When an uncrushable 60 pound dozer ripper tooth became wedged in the jaws of the crusher, the toggle plate did not break. Mr. Kirkbride, an equipment operator with Harper Sand & Gravel, was called upon to remove to ripper tooth from the jaws after the crusher was shut down and the power turned off. As a result of the tremendous but hidden stored energy, the ripper tooth exploded out of the crusher and struck Mr. Kirbride in the face, causing him to suffer a traumatic brain injury, a shattered jaw, and other disabling injuries. Subsequent investigation revealed that the toggle plate was manufactured defectively, being at a thickness in excess of design specifications.

The trial, presided over by Judge Tena Campbell in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, lasted two weeks. The jury deliberated for some seven hours before returning a verdict finding Terex at fault for (1) defective manufacture of the toggle plate, (2) failure to warn of the dangers of stored energy and removal of uncrushable materials, and (3) breach of implied warranty of merchantability. The jury awarded $3,528,063 in damages.

Terex was represented by Cary Hiltgen and Randy Baker of the Oklahoma City based firm of Hiltgen & Brewer, and Bryan Fishburn of P. Bryan Fishburn, PC in Salt Lake City.