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Warner Fruehauf Trailer Co. v. Boston

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
654 A.2d 1272 (1995)


Facts

William Boston (plaintiff), a supervising mechanic for the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), was seriously injured when an extremely heavy liftgate attached to the back of a PEPCO truck fell free and struck Boston. Boston filed suit in federal district court against the manufacturer of the liftgate, Warner Fruehauf Trailer Company (Warner) and its distributor alleging strict products liability based on a claim of defective design. At trial, the evidence showed that, in response to a power outage call, Boston and others used the liftgate to remove some heavy objects from the truck. Thereafter, one crew member returned the liftgate platform to, or at least near, the vertical “closed” position. Boston approached the liftgate to attach the safety chains when it suddenly malfunctioned and the 1,050 pound metal platform fell and struck Boston’s hip. Boston presented evidence that the liftgate was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous in that it had no backup system to prevent a free-fall of the tailgate in the event of a mechanical failure. At the close of the evidence, the trial court directed a verdict in favor of Boston as to liability. The matter was then submitted to the jury on the issue of damages. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Boston and awarded him $550,000 in damages. Warner appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Belson, J.)

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