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Genie Industries, Inc. v. Matak

Supreme Court of Texas
462 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. 2015)


Facts

A church contracted with Gulf Coast Electric to run fiber-optic cable in the ceilings of a building. James Boggan and Walter Matak, employees of Gulf Coast Electric, used an AWP-40S aerial work platform manufactured and sold by Genie Industries, Inc. (Genie) (defendant) to perform the work. The 1,000-pound versatile lift contained a platform on which an individual could stand. The lift could then be raised 40 feet into the air. Signs on the machine and in the user’s manual warned of the obvious danger that the machine could fall over if its four stabilizers were not deployed at the base of the lift prior to raising the platform. A church employee suggested that the job would proceed more quickly if the lift was not lowered with Matak on the platform each time the machine was moved to the next area. When Boggan retracted the four stabilizers and attempted to move the lift with Matak on the raised platform, the machine fell. As a result, Matak suffered massive head injuries and died. The representatives of Walter Matak’s estate (plaintiffs) filed suit against Genie based upon an alleged design defect in the AWP-40S. At trial, the plaintiffs’ expert presented three alternative designs to the AWP-40S, and the plaintiffs’ counsel presented a fourth alternative. The jury held for the plaintiffs. The court of appeals affirmed, and the state supreme court granted Genie’s petition for review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hecht, C.J.)

Dissent (Boyd, J.)

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