Successes

Product Liability Trials

Since entering private practice in 1996, Robert Hanlon, Jr. has served as lead trial counsel in more than 20 civil cases in nine states. They include:

  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — BRAKE SYSTEM DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer and dealership in this brake system case, which was partially tried in April 2012 in Bergen County, New Jersey. The plaintiff was a 36-year-old police officer and the accident occurred while he was driving the relatively new subject police cruiser to a fire scene. The plaintiff alleged that he was travelling approximately 40 mph when he attempted to brake in response to the co-defendant’s car pulling out in front of him, but that the brake pedal went “to the floor” and did not engage the brakes. A post-accident inspection revealed damage to the brake pedal assembly, most notably a missing linkage clip that secures the brake pedal to the master cylinder push rod. The pedal was found to be completely disconnected from that rod. The plaintiff’s experts alleged that the linkage clip either failed or had never been installed, and that the separation of the pedal from the push rod occurred pre-impact. They relied in part on multiple computer simulations demonstrating the effect of brake failure at various points in the accident sequence. The defense contended that the separation occurred as a result of the impact, relying on downloaded diagnostic data to prove that the brake line pressure was consistent with heavy brake application at the moment of impact. The defense also used the plaintiff’s own simulations to disprove the allegation of pre-impact brake failure. The plaintiff underwent partial knee replacement surgery, did not return to work, and alleged lost past and future earnings of approximately $1 million plus pain and suffering damages. The case settled at trial for less than 5 percent of what the plaintiff’s lowest demand had been at mediation.
  • PRODUCT LIABILITY — INDUSTRIAL RACKING DESIGNMr. Hanlon represented the manufacturer of a commercial racking system in the limited retrial of this product liability action, which was conducted in February 2010 in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The case stemmed from an industrial accident that occurred in September 2001. The plaintiff was operating a lift truck in a warehouse when commercial racking collapsed, dumping 2,000 pounds of product on him. The plaintiff, a 31-year-old male, suffered lumbar burst fractures and a traumatic cauda equina injury that left him wheelchair bound due to partial paralysis of his lower legs and feet. He also suffered neurological damage affecting his bowel and bladder functions. The case was originally tried to a plaintiffs' verdict in 2006. An appeal resulted in a partial retrial limited to damages. Mr. Hanlon served as lead trial counsel in the second trial. The jury returned a verdict of $12.4 million.
  • PRODUCT LIABILITY — FAN DESIGNMr. Hanlon second chaired the October 2009 trial of this product liability action venued in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs alleged that a seven-year-old boy died in an apartment fire caused by a recalled fan manufactured by Mr. Hanlon’s client. The jury returned a plaintiffs’ verdict in the amount of $13.5 million. 
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — CRASHWORTHINESSMr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this crashworthiness case, which was tried in April 2008 in Camden County, New Jersey. The plaintiff alleged that he sustained debilitating brain injuries due to design defects in the vehicle’s airbag system and sun visor. The jury returned a no cause of action verdict after a three-week trial.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — TRANSMISSION DESIGN: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this “false park” case, which was tried in September 2007 in Bethesda, Maryland. A young mother was killed in her driveway when her minivan allegedly slipped from "park" into "reverse." The jury returned a no cause of action verdict. 
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — TRANSMISSION DESIGN: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this “false park” case, which was tried over six weeks commencing in January 2007 in Los Angeles, California. A 38-year-old father of three was killed while attempting to re-enter his vehicle after the transmission allegedly slipped from "park" into "reverse." The vehicle was the subject of a “false park” recall, as were three other vehicles with the same allegedly defective component. The jury returned a plaintiffs' verdict and awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages. The case settled on appeal. 
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — TRANSMISSION DESIGN: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this rollaway case, which was tried in January 2006 in federal court in Iowa. A two-year-old boy shifted a running pick-up truck from "park" into "reverse." His grandfather was killed trying to re-enter the truck. The plaintiffs alleged that the 2001 model year truck was defectively designed because it lacked a brake-shift interlock, which would have prevented the child from shifting the vehicle out of "park" because his foot was not on the brake pedal. Other manufacturers had incorporated that device into their vehicles by the mid-1990s. The jury returned a no cause of action verdict. The plaintiffs' appeal was denied.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — SUDDEN ACCELERATION: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this sudden acceleration case, which was tried over nine weeks commencing in January 2005 in Cook County, Illinois. A doctor was struck and killed by the subject as SUV while crossing the street in front of his hospital. Pursuant to a partial settlement agreement, the jury was asked only to allocate fault between the driver and the vehicle. The jury assigned two-thirds fault to the driver. 
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — TRANSMISSION DESIGN: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this “false park” case, which was partially tried in September 2004 in Essex County, New Jersey. The plaintiffs alleged that the transmission, which was the subject of a recall, slipped from "park" into "reverse." The mother of two young children, one with special needs, was killed in the accident. The case settled during trial.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — SUDDEN ACCELERATION: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this sudden acceleration case, which was tried in September 2004 in Cobb County, Georgia. The court directed a verdict in the defendant's favor at the close of the plaintiffs' case.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — SEAT DESIGNMr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this seat design case, which was tried in February and March 2004 in Mercer County, New Jersey. The plaintiff, an attorney, sustained multiple injuries, the most significant of which was a debilitating closed head injury. The case presented a significant risk not only due to the nature and extent of the injuries, but also because the manufacturer had been found liable in several similar cases and in some of them had been found liable for punitive damages. After a four-week trial, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s punitive damages claim. The jury found that the seat was defective and a 60 percent cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury awarded $1.3 million in compensatory damages against the manufacturer. The plaintiff’s appeal challenging the sufficiency of the award was denied.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — SUDDEN ACCELERATIONMr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this sudden acceleration case, which was tried in March 2003 in Cobb County, Georgia. The single vehicle accident occurred on Christmas Eve. The plaintiff, a young woman, alleged that a design defect in the cruise control system caused her SUV to accelerate out of control and into a tree. The plaintiff was flown from the scene to a hospital where she underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen. The jury returned a no cause of action verdict following a two-week trial. The plaintiff’s appeal was denied.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — SEAT BELT DESIGN: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this restraint system design defect case, which was partially tried in the summer of 2002 in Camden County, New Jersey. The plaintiffs alleged that the seat belts in the subject minivan failed during a frontal collision. The matter resolved after several in limine motions were decided in defendants' favor and after a pretrial Rule 104 hearing resulted in the exclusion of sled tests offered into evidence by the plaintiffs.
  • AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT LIABILITY — ROOF DESIGN: Mr. Hanlon represented an automobile manufacturer in this crashworthiness case, which was first tried in the fall of 2001 in Hudson County, New Jersey. The mother of three young boys was killed when a tire came off a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction and struck and crushed the roof of her minivan. She died instantly of a traumatic brain injury, leaving her three sons in the driverless van traveling at highway speeds. The van scraped along the center divider and came to rest without further incident. The decedent’s sons and husband, a firefighter, brought suit against the manufacturer of the minivan. They sought $1.5 million in wrongful death damages and unspecified damages for severe emotional distress suffered by the boys. After a three-week trial, a jury found the minivan roof to be defective and awarded the family $5 million in wrongful death damages and $15 million in severe emotional distress damages. The trial court set aside the $20 million award and ordered a new trial as to damages only. The case was retried in September 2002. The jury was informed that the minivan’s roof was defective and a proximate cause of the decedent’s death. The jury awarded $800,000 in wrongful death damages and $25,000 in severe emotional distress damages. The case settled on appeal.