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Attorney J.B. Dilsheimer Obtains $1.6 Million Verdict in Agricultural Product Liability and Negligence Case

On May 13, 2011, Cohen, Placitella & Roth attorney J.B. Dilsheimer and Pittsburgh, Kansas attorney Timothy A. Short, secured a $1.6 million verdict on behalf of their client Samuel C. Rollings, a 23-year old factory worker against Ken Babcock Sales Inc., in a personal injury and defective product action in the District Court of Wilson County Kansas (Samuel C. Rollings v. S-M Enterprises, Inc., Ken Babcock Sales, Inc., and Brock Grain Systems, Docket No. 2008-CV-89).

Rollings suffered a devastating injury in January 2007 while working in a grain bin, sweeping out some corn when he slipped and his right foot and lower leg became caught by the drag chain of the conveyor system designed by Ken Babcock Sales, Inc., causing severe personal injury resulting in the loss of his leg.

According to the complaint which was filed on December 24, 2009, the grain conveyor system which was designed by Ken Babcock Sales Inc., failed to provide guards to protect workers engaged in required grain removal inside the grain bin and failed to provide instructions and warnings adequate to protect workers. The complaint further alleged that the grain conveying system was defective in its design and was in an unreasonably dangerous condition when it was sold to the plaintiff’s employer, the Fredonia Cooperative Association, Inc.

The defense argued that the Fredonia Cooperative Association, Inc. was negligent in sending workers, including Plaintiff Sam Rollings, into the grain bin while a sweep auger and the grain conveyor were moving and energized. They maintained that the system designed by the defendant was not unsafe if used consistent with warnings on the grain bin door not to enter the bin while parts were moving.
Dilsheimer argued that because of the unique design of the grain handling system, which used larger than normal sump holes along with an unguarded drag chain conveyor instead of the typical screw auger to remove grain from the bin, there was nothing that Rollings could have done to avoid the accident.
“The defective unguarded drag chain conveyor was just 6 inches away from the large sump hole……an accident just waiting to happen,” commented Dilsheimer.

The jury deliberated for more than 7 hours before handing down its decision. The jury was comprised of six men and six women all representative of the local area.

The case was presided over by District Court Judge David Rogers of the District Court of Wilson County Kansas. J.B. Dilsheimer’s closing argument in the case included the statement, “You don’t need to be a lawyer, a Philadelphia lawyer, or a farmer to know what’s right in this case. The defendant who designed this unreasonably dangerous grain handling system is responsible for making it safe.”

The jury in Fredonia, Kansas, which has been known to be a rural, extremely conservative jurisdiction, ruled in favor of the plaintiff, finding the defendant to have the largest percentage fault for the accident.

“It was the right result for a young man who had a horrible accident,” said Cohen, Placitella & Roth attorney, J.B. Dilsheimer, who went on to state, “And (as a manufacturer) you can’t put functionality ahead of safety in the design of a product. You have to take into consideration that what may make it unique, may also make it dangerous.”

The award will be reduced to reflect the Kansas cap on compensatory damages.

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