Product Liability

Secrest Wardle has been at the forefront of product liability litigation since it became a recognized cause of action in Michigan in the 1960s.  We were among the first attorneys in the United States to argue successfully the “Government Contractor Defense” to defeat product liability claims filed against a major United States product manufacturer.  Crossan v ITT, 693 F Supp 528.  Our Product Liability Practice Group was responsible for establishing the law in Michigan regarding the scope of a manufacturer’s duty in a design defect product liability case.  Fisher v Kawasaki Heavy Industries, 354 F Supp 467.  The Firm was also successful in establishing the criteria used to determine “fraudulent joinder” in defeating diversity jurisdiction in federal court.  Ludwig v Lear Jet, 830 F Supp 995.

 

Our attorneys have successfully defended claims involving design defects, manufacturing defects, failure to warn, improper warnings and labeling, violation of industry codes and standards, and recalls of products.  We have represented national and international manufacturers, distributors and retailers in numerous industries involving a wide array of consumer and industrial products, including: 

  • Aerosols
  • Agricultural equipment
  • Alarms for cars and homes
  • Animal feed
  • Apparel’s Arborol equipment
  • Automobile and automotive products
  • Aviation products
  • Batteries
  • Bicycles
  • Boats and watercraft
  • Boilers
  • Chemical products
  • Construction equipment
  • Construction materials
  • Consumer goods
  • Dietary supplements
  • Farm equipment
  • Firearms
  • Food products
  • Food preparation equipment
  • Furnaces
  • HVAC equipment
  • Household products
  • Industrial equipment
  • Insecticides, pesticides and herbicides
  • Lumber products
  • Medical devices
  • Motorcycles
  • Off-road vehicles
  • Paints and solvents
  • Pharmaceutical in over-the-counter products
  • Snowmobiles
  • Tires and split wheel rims
  • Toys 

We vigorously defend unwarranted claims by providing our clients with aggressive, cost-effective, and innovative representation.  When the facts dictate, however, we are experienced in alternative dispute resolution, facilitation, mediation and arbitration.  Our attorneys have years of experience managing multi-district and mass tort litigation.  We can adopt our defenses to a single lawsuit or to an entire product line if necessary.

 

Our Product Liability Practice Group has presented numerous product liability seminars and training programs for the engineering and management staff of major manufacturers.  Seminars have included “Developing an Effective Liability Plan for Your Company,” presented in Taipei, Taiwan, to various Asian product manufacturers, and “Product Liability Litigation Training Basic Concepts and Guidelines,” presented to a major aircraft component manufacturer.  We are also available to advise our clients regarding labeling, warnings, and advertising and warranty programs.

 

DEFENSE VERDICT IN CRASH-WORTHY CASE

In Pourcho v BMW, the Firm defended BMW on a $1 million closed head injury claim in federal court in which plaintiff and her experts alleged defective design of the airbags and seat belts of the plaintiff’s vehicle.  After a three week trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict for no cause of action in favor of BMW.

 

SELLER SEEKS INDEMNITY BUT GETS NO CAUSE

The Firm represented Sherman Nurseries, a product seller, in a case in which the plaintiff cut off all of the fingers of his left hand while operating an allegedly defective trimmer that lacked proper guarding and warnings.  Sherman’s motion seeking to compel the manufacturer to take over the defense and indemnify Sherman was denied.  Nonetheless, the judge corrected that error in her jury instructions that requested the manufacturer to pay any judgment rendered against Sherman.  Ultimately, that was unnecessary because we obtained a defense verdict after two weeks in trial in federal court.

 

MOTION STRIKES PRODUCT CLAIM

In SeverStal v NARCO, plaintiff filed a $4,500,000 claim for property damage and lost profits.  Plaintiff claimed defective design, breach of contract, failure to warn, and breach of express and implied warranties.  The case arose from the failure of a component part contained within a steel ladle.  A portion of the component was designed by our client.  The failure caused the spill of approximately 260 tons of molten steel resulting in the loss of the ladle, a ladle stand, a ladle carrier, and the steel itself, as well as lost profits because the entire plant was shut down for the period of time necessary to clean up the damage caused by the spill.  Motion for Summary Judgment was granted in part, striking all but the breach of contract and breach of express warranties claims.  Those claims were settled shortly before trial for $200,000.

 

OPERATOR ERROR NOT A DESIGN DEFECT

In Fogler v Broderson Manufacturing, Secrest Wardle defended a wrongful death case in which a crane was not equipped with an anti-load moment device designed to prevent the crane from tipping over when it lifted too heavy a load.  At trial in Oakland County Circuit Court, the Firm established that operator error rather than a design defect was the cause of plaintiff’s unfortunate death.  The verdict was no cause for action.

 


Group Chair
  Truex, Bruce A.
Senior Partner

Group Members
Masters, Mark F.
Senior Partner

Morley, Mark E.
Senior Partner

Batton, Timothy J.
Executive Partner

Bradley, James R.
Executive Partner

Emrich, Henry S.
Executive Partner

Mitchell, John G.
Executive Partner

Consolo, Matthew J.
Partner

Grimske, Justin A.
Partner

Hogg, Christopher M.
Partner

Holt, Jr., Robert B.
Partner

Rojas, Diego J.
Partner

Shailor, William D.
Partner

Vander Veer, C. Grant
Partner

Weston, John L.
Partner

Jugan, Zachary S.
Associate

Siewert, Nicholas W.
Associate

Kreuger, Steven L.
Of Counsel

Recent Publications
Sellers Don’t Remove that Warning
State of the Art 08/14/2017

Immunity Under Fire
State of the Art 03/25/2016

Tragic snowmobile death case may breathe some life into Michigan products liability litigation
State of the Art 02/16/2016

Economic Loss Rule Defeats Tort Claims
State of the Art 01/18/2013

James L. Bradley Elected as Council Member
Press Release 11/30/2012

Litigation Successes
Product Liability (allegedly defective product) - Commercial Litigants
Maeder Bros. v Hammond Drivfes
Result Date: 01/28/2014

Personal Injury/Jet Ski
Greydanus v Novak et al
Result Date: 05/07/2008



Archives
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