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Defective Design Causes Machine Explosion, Resulting in Head Injury

Plaintiff suffers permanent brain damage; Case settled for $950,000.

Plaintiff, a 27-year-old male, worked for a paper coating company in Western Virginia as a machine operator. While watching his supervisor and another employee adjust the internal pressure in a machine, the machine exploded. The explosion caused a 450-pound metal head to travel roughly 35 feet and across an aisle.  The metal head struck the plaintiff in the head, causing a serious head injury. The Defective Design Causes Machine Explosion, Resulting in Head Injury - Altizer Lawinjury involved an open fracture and a subdural hematoma.

Plaintiff and his attorneys argued that the safety pressure release on the machine did not function, causing the pressure explosion. A defect in the machine’s relief valve manufacturer because the valve failed to meet its own specifications and failed to meet ANSI standards. Plaintiff’s attorneys also argued that two out of 12 fasteners that held the machine head together also were defective and did not meet ANSI standards.

Attorneys for the machine manufacturer and for the supplier of the fasteners in question presented a defense based upon identification of the machine and its parts; the allegation that the parts at issue were not theirs, but were manufactured by another firm was a critical claim of the defense.

The plaintiff’s response was to be the proof that both the relief device and the fasteners contributed to the explosion of the machine. Plaintiff claimed that if either the device or the fasteners had been working as promised, there would have been no explosion. Plaintiff also claimed that the design of the machine was defective because there was no sufficient safety feature that would have responded to a potential malfunction of some of the component parts of the machine. This proof would have supported a claim of breach of warranty in addition to defective design and product liability.

Plaintiff’s injuries included:

  • Head injury with loss of consciousness
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Seizures
  • Permanent brain damage that caused double vision, balance challenges, and emotional effects.

These injuries were consistent with those observed in similar cases. Had the case been taken into a courtroom, the jury would have seen a man who looked normal. There were no external signs of the injuries sustained, and plaintiff had regained most cognitive functions. He had scored above average on intelligence tests. When the jury interacted with the plaintiff verbally, he would have presented as articulate and thoughtful. From these observations and interpretations, the jury was expected to conclude that the plaintiff was capable of performing to standard levels on some types of work.

These injuries resulted in classic indications of damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. Further, the plaintiff was emotionally unstable, withdrawn, and could not begin or implement many activities. The long-term effects of the head injury included physical and emotional challenges that would have precluded the possibility of performing a job.

The case did not go to the courtroom and a jury. The case was settled out of court and the plaintiff was awarded $950,000 in various damages.

This case is a good example of a product sold with a defect that was dangerous and harmful. Many types of products come to market with design or functional defects. When the defects become critical in the operation of the product the harm to people can be very serious.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a damaged or defective product, call the trusted attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C. With more than 25 years of experience, our attorneys have demonstrated on numerous occasions their ability to build a strong case and to win the best possible settlements or judgments for clients in products liability cases.

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