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August 2021

New York Product Liability Team Wins Summary Judgment in the Western District of Arkansas

On August 26, 2021, the New York Product Liability team and its associate Robert W. F. Beckmann successfully obtained summary judgment in the United States District Court, Western District of Arkansas on behalf of a step stool manufacturer and retailer.

The 66-year-old plaintiff allegedly fell while using a step stool to exit a travel trailer being used as her permanent residence.  She sustained a fractured left wrist requiring extensive surgery and later developed shoulder impingement syndrome and frozen shoulder, for which she underwent further surgical intervention. She asserted strict product liability claims against the manufacturer and retailer, alleging that the step stool’s cross-bar support bent and caused the accident because its metal lacked sufficient rigidity.  The plaintiff demanded $1,000,000 to settle. 

In conjunction with summary judgment, we successfully moved to preclude the plaintiff’s engineering expert’s product defect theory. We specifically demonstrated that the expert’s theory was not supported by scientific data or methodology because the expert failed to identify the type of metal used, provide any scientific data or testing to support his conclusion that the metal was insufficiently strong for its intended purpose, or provide an alternative type of metal that should have been used and would have prevented the accident. 

We then demonstrated that, absent expert support, the plaintiff could not prove that her accident was caused by a product defect.  We did so by using favorable evidence we developed that plaintiff misused the step stool in contravention of product warnings and that she could not rule out that such misuse caused the cross-bar to bend and plaintiff to fall.  The misuse included using the step stool for an extended period of time on soft and un-level ground both prior to and at the time of the accident.

The Court agreed with our arguments and both precluded the plaintiff’s expert’s product defect theory and granted summary judgment.  This successful outcome was the product of hard work through the years-long, contentious litigation and a team effort with support from team leader Gregg Minkin and Senior Counsel Illianov A. Lopez Larancuent.

Robert W. F. Beckmann
Gregg D. Minkin