Man’s leg crushed under lift
From the May 16, 2005 Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
Mechanical brakes failed
$1.25 Million Settlement
A maintenance man who lost a leg when a freight lift fell on him has settled his Greene County case against the lift manufacturer and installers for $1.25 million.
In 1997, Hudson Foods began construction of an addition to its Springfield plant. Acme Dock Specialists, Inc. installed two freight lifts manufactured by AutoQuip Corporation. However, Acme Dock installed only the bracing supplied with the lift – even though the lift installation manual required the use of backup plates and other supports when a lift is installed inside a concrete shaft. AutoQuip did not supply backup plates with the lift.
After the mechanical installation, Lumix Electrical, Inc. – the electrical contractor – brought power to the lift and installed the control box and the power disconnect on the inner wall of the lift shaft, at the direction of the Hudson Foods maintenance superintendent. AutoQuip’s corporate representative testified that the location of the control box on the shaft wall was both dangerous and in violation of the National Electric Code.
Hudson Foods made significant repairs to the lift in 1998 and 2000 after the lift platforms stuck between floors, the motor continued to turn and the header was deformed. After the third such occurrence, the plant – now owned by Willowbrook – asked Acme Dock to reinforce the beams with plates, which Acme Dock did without obtaining approval from AutoQuip. AutoQuip’s corporate representative testified that AutoQuip would never have approved such a modification because of the potential danger.
On Sept. 9, 2001, Stephen Eyman – a Willowbrook maintenance man working the night shift – was trying to repair the lift after it had malfunctioned the day before. After the lift stuck just short of the third floor, Eyman was at the control box inside the shaft attempting to manually move the lift upward when he pushed the lift too far – the chains broke, the mechanical brakes did not engage and it fell. Eyman, 53, tried to get out of the way, but he slipped and the platform fell on his left leg, which required amputation below the knee.
Eyman claimed that AutoQuip and Acme Dock’s actions contributed to cause the mechanical brakes to fail. He also alleged that he would not have been in danger to manually operate the lift had Lumix not installed the control box inside the shaft.
The defendants contended that Eyman was negligent in manually operating the lift with it above his head, that Willowbrook had not properly maintained the lift and had changed its condition since installation. The defendants further argued that Willowbrook was responsible for the installation of the control panel inside the shaft and the addition of the plates to the beams since these modifications were done under its specific direction. The defendants also claimed that Willowbrook was negligent because the company had repaired the lift a few months earlier without giving notice to Acme Dock or AutoQuip.
Three weeks after mediation, the parties reached a $1.25 million settlement.
Type of Action: Product liability/personal injury
Type of Injuries: Below knee amputation of left leg
Court/Case Number/Date: Greene County Circuit Court/103CC014/March 18, 2005
Caption: Eyman v. Acme Dock Specialists, et al.
Judge, Jury or ADR: Mediation
Name of Judge: J. Miles Sweeney
Verdict or Settlement: $1.25 million settlement
Special Damages: $101, 333 medical expenses; $208,542 lost wages; undetermined future prosthetic needs
Allocation of Fault: N/A
Last Offer: N/A
Last Demand: N/A
Attorney for Plaintiff: Neil Chanter, The Strong-Garner-Bauer PC, Springfield; James E. Corbett, The Corbett Law Firm, Springfield
Insurance Carrier: Lexington Insurance Co. for defendant AutoQuip; United Fire and Casualty for defendant Acme Dock; Allied Insurance Co. for defendant Lumix
Plaintiff’s Experts: Larry Cox, Springfield (economist); Christopher Ramsey, Rolla (metallurgy); John Reagan, St. Louis (electrical engineering); Thomas Schaefer, St. Louis (mechanical engineering); Joe Stabler, St. Louis (elevators and lifts); Wilbur Swearingin, Springfield (vocational rehabilitation); Dr. Terry Winkler, Springfield (life care plan)
Defendant’s Experts: Not disclosed.