Mediation Concludes Product Liability Case for Italian Manufacturer December 2012
Brian T. Stapleton and Frank J. Ciano, partners in Goldberg Segalla’s Product Liability Practice Group, successfully resolved through mediation a significant product liability action involving a severely injured plaintiff, an eight-year discovery battle, and an initial settlement demand of $15 million.
Brian and Frank represented a leading Italian manufacturer of flexible packaging equipment. This case involved a workplace accident in which the plaintiff suffered arm injuries so severe that his doctor recommended it be amputated to alleviate the excruciating pain he suffered daily. Although the plaintiff’s employer was the party primarily responsible for the accident, our client faced potential liability exposure in the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The case involved issues that included design defect allegations, interlocks, and foreseeability of modifications; proper pleadings, including complaint amendments, impleader, and the relation back doctrine; employers’ liability under the Workers’ Compensation Act, as well as the “grave injury” exception; complex and obscure insurance coverage issues under the Workers’ Compensation Act; and pass through of third-party liability.
The plaintiff’s attorney began the mediation by presenting a $15 million settlement demand, under the impression that the employer had unlimited 1(b) workers’ compensation coverage for this loss. But when the employer revealed that its insurance coverage was limited to just $2.4 million under a particular workers’ compensation section, all parties looked to our client to make a significant contribution toward settlement to compensate for the shortfall in the employer’s insurance coverage.
In response, Brian and Frank maintained a firm position, arguing that the evidence they developed in this case unequivocally established that our client had no liability exposure for this loss because the accident was the direct result of the modifications made by the employer to the equipment manufactured by our client, as well as the plaintiff’s negligence in placing himself in a position of danger. As a result of superb discovery practice, depositions, and negotiation by our team, the plaintiff agreed to a settlement with only a nominal contribution from our client.