Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania amputation victim: Metal shearer lacked safeguards

We've all made purchases that haven't lived up to expectations – products that didn't seem to work as well as commercials claimed. Many Allegheny County consumers shrug off an unsatisfactory purchase and vow never to use the product again, while some return the item for a refund. What happens when a product isn't just disappointing but dangerous?

A Levittown metal shop worker lost three fingers while operating a piece of machinery at work. The 2012 accident occurred as the plaintiff was using a metal shearer made by Tennsmith Inc. The March product liability lawsuit claimed users were endangered because the shearer contained no safety guard and no product warning to prevent amputation.

The metal fabricator stated the workplace accident cost him the use of his dominant, right hand and, as a result, caused wage losses and limited future employment and earning potential. The plaintiff said he suffered extraordinary and ongoing physical and mental pain. The complaint also asked for compensation to cover substantial medical expenses.

The strict liability lawsuit alleged the unsafe design of the metal shearers and failure to warn about the product's dangers constituted negligence. The plaintiff requested over $150,000 in damages. In strict liability cases, a manufacturer can be liable for injuries caused by a defective product, even without proof of negligence.

A product liability claim alleges a manufacturer or some party involved in the manufacturing, distribution or sales process is liable for injuries or deaths. Plaintiffs must prove a product was defective and the defect resulted in an injury or death from an unreasonably dangerous product. A civil court also must be convinced the plaintiff used the product as it was intended to be used.

Some claims concentrate on marketing flaws. Instructions and warning labels must be clear and complete for safe consumer use. Victims may receive damages based on a defendant's failure to warn about product misuse or hazards.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, "Metalworker whose fingers were amputated files products liability claim against Tennsmith Inc." Jon Campisi, Mar. 28, 2014

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