Woman Wins $5 Million Suit Against Forklift Manufacturer

Cohen, Placitella & Roth

Nov 7, 2016

A forklift – particularly those designed with an open back that the operator steps in and out of, sans a door – may be inherently dangerous. At least, that is what the attorney for one plaintiff, Terry Wasilewski, tried to prove to the jury.

In 2008, Plaintiff Wasilewski was operating a forklift as part of her routine job duties at Rite Aid when one of the machine’s legs got hooked on a shelf in the Rite Aid warehouse, spinning the forklift around aggressively. As a result of the spin, the operator compartment – which was doorless with an open back, providing no protection for Wasilewski – was forced onto the racks, and Wasilewski’s left ankle and foot were crushed. As a result of the accident, Wasilewski required surgery resulting in amputation on the left leg from the knee downwards, leaving her unable to return to work and obviously permanently impaired.

Wasilewski Sues Forklift Manufacturer & Retailer

a worker driving a forklift to lift a pallet of boxesTo recover compensation for her economic and noneconomic losses, Wasilewski filed a lawsuit against both the forklift manufacturer, Raymond Corp., and the forklift retailer, Abel Womack. Her lawsuit alleged design defects, which included the lack of door (open back design), as well as the inherently dangerous design of the outrigger (the part of the machine’s legs which originally got caught, causing the accident).

Wasilewski’s case drew on other examples of injuries caused by the lack of an open back design in the past, stating that a single manufacturer alone has reported more than 600 cases of injuries. However, forklift manufacturers like Raymond Corp. state that the designs are safe, based on studies conducted using dummies. Wasilewski’s attorney dismisses these studies, stating that humans and dummies do not behave in the same way, and that these studies are “junk science.”

Jury Sides With Plaintiff

The jury sided with Wasilewski, reaching the verdict that the forklift involved in her accident was both defective and unreasonably dangerous, although it did not mention a specific defect in its verdict. Wasilewski was awarded a grand total of $5.27 million, $4.0 million of which was awarded for pain and suffering damages, and nearly half a million of which was awarded for lost wages/earnings. The remaining amount was to compensate Wasilewski for her medical expenses. The money will be used, amongst other things, to put together a life care program for Wasilewski, as well as get her her own house with indoor plumbing (at the time of the suit, she was living with no running water or indoor plumbing).

Contact an Experienced Product Liability Attorney

At the law firm of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., our experienced product liability attorneys have successfully handled countless design defect cases like this one over the years. We know what it takes to prove defects and damages, including gathering the right evidence, expert testimony, and more. If a dangerous product in Pennsylvania or New Jersey has injured you, we want to meet with you. If you would like to schedule your free consultation with CPR Law, contact us online or give us a call at (888) 560-7189.