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June 2020

Philadelphia Team Wins Summary Judgment in Complex Product Liability Case

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Philadelphia Partner Ann Thornton Field, and Senior Counsel, Eric Rosenberg, successfully obtained summary judgment and a complete dismissal of all claims on behalf of two firm clients, subsidiaries of a multi-billion dollar, international electronic systems manufacturer after three years of litigation in Pennsylvania state court.

The litigation arose from a truck explosion at a natural gas facility in Philadelphia.  The accident ultimately led to the death of an individual using the truck to complete a hydrocarbon catalyst removal from a liquefied natural gas storage vessel.

The plaintiffs alleged that the firm's clients manufactured a product designed to ground electrical currents and discharge static electricity entering the truck as a result of the removal operation, and asserted claims for negligence and strict liability.  The plaintiffs sued a variety of defendants, including the owner and manufacturer of the truck, the owner of the facility, and several other entities involved in the design of the truck, and demanded an eight figure global settlement. 

The Gordon & Rees team immediately investigated the allegations and learned that the client product was not in use at the time of the accident, and that another inferior grounding system was used instead.  The firm also learned that parties failed to preserve critical evidence at the scene of the accident and later pursued spoliation sanctions that would have prevented the plaintiffs from submitting evidence of liability.  The plaintiffs, however, argued that the product was damaged and did not function properly at the time of the accident, forcing the decedent to utilize an inferior grounding method that was not sufficient to prevent electricity from igniting flammable vapors present at the gas facility.

Field and Rosenberg moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the plaintiffs could not establish personal jurisdiction, since the product at issue was manufactured in Michigan and sold to a third-party outside of Pennsylvania.  The court denied the motion after months of contentious jurisdictional discovery. The Gordon & Rees team renewed the issue by filing a motion for reconsideration, and a motion for summary judgment before trial.  Ultimately the court granted the motion for summary judgement and dismissed all claims and cross-claims against the firm's clients.

Ann Thornton Field
Eric C. Rosenberg