Cases involving defective and dangerous products or property conditions, known as product liability and premises liability cases, are very challenging. The evidence needed to prove negligence can be highly specialized and complex. It can take many years to actually obtain a verdict or settlement. These types of cases require that a law firm invest significant resources. As a result of all this, many law firms do not take such cases.
Our law firm has handled product and premises liability matters that illustrate the difficulty inherent in such cases. Two recent cases are described here.
Dangerous Equipment in a Hotel Exercise Room
In 2013, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of a widow and minor children against a Houston hotel and the company that maintained the equipment in the hotel exercise room. The victim, a guest at the Houston Marriott George Bush Intercontinental Airport hotel, was fatally injured while using a treadmill.
The lawsuit alleged that a defective condition in the treadmill caused the man to fall and strike his head. The equipment maintenance company was charged with failing to repair the treadmill and the hotel chain is alleged to have failed to address the dangerous condition of equipment on the property.
In a case like this, the plaintiff (our clients) must prove that the hotel chain was negligent in allowing defective equipment on its property. They also must prove that the company that maintained the equipment was negligent in its failure to identify and repair the defective treadmill. The plaintiff must successfully answer questions such as:
- Are there maintenances standards for exercise equipment and did the maintenance company adhere to those standards?
- Did the hotel know about the problem? Should it have known?
- Were there signs alerting equipment users to the danger of using the treadmill?
- Was there supervision in the exercise room?
- Was the employee who maintained the equipment properly trained?
Answering questions like these requires research, discovery, depositions of experts and other work in order to get at the truth of the matter. The basic question in this premises liability case is whether the victim died as a result of dangerous property conditions.
Dangerous Machinery in the Workplace
Another case handled by our law firm shows the work required to bring a case in 2013, our client brought lawsuit against her late husband’s former employer and the manufacturer of the equipment that he was using at the time of his death.
The man died when he was pulled into an industrial shredder while performing his job, which on that day was loading an industrial shredder with Styrofoam. The suit charged that the machine used by the worker was defective because it had no barrier to stop the operator from being vulnerable to being pulled into the machine. Making changes to the machine’s design to make it safer was both technologically and economically possible, according to the petition filed with the court.
The suit also alleged that the manufacturer failed to market the machine with adequate warnings about the dangers it posed to operators. It also charged that the man’s employer did not have a workers’ compensation policy in place at the time of the accident.
Some of the issues that must be resolved in this case include:
- Whether the machine was designed according to approved safety standards
- Whether the company and the worker’s employer knew of the potential dangers of the machine
- Whether the worker was properly trained in the use of the machine
- Whether warning signs about the dangers of the machine were posted
- Whether marketing materials and user manuals described the dangers of the machine
Answering such questions requires consultation with industrial design and safety engineers, discovery of employer training practices, deposition of witnesses and experts, and other types of investigations that can shed light on how the machine was designed, marketed and used.
When considering a wrongful death lawsuit based on a defective and dangerous manufactured product, it is important to talk to an attorney with the extensive resources and in-depth of product liability and premises liability law.