Product Liability: Claire’s Story
A $60 part could have saved Tom Brown’s life. Instead, Brown was pinned between a shelving unit and the dashboard of his forklift at Prime Tanning Company in Sanford, Maine, where he had worked since 1976. He suffocated to death. That afternoon, Brown was supposed to go home and celebrate the 30th anniversary of meeting his wife and high school sweetheart, Claire.
Attorney Terry Garmey represented Claire Brown in a case against Crown Equipment Corp., which manufactured the forklift. At the trial in Portland, Maine, Garmey demonstrated that Crown knew of 10 other deaths and 90 serious injuries caused in the same manner as Brown – all of which might have been prevented with installation of a rear safety guard. Crown did not adequately warn operators and companies that had purchased the equipment.
“Crown was on notice that this machine was a serial killer. Period,” Garmey said. “For years they had a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy for saving lives.”
The jury awarded $4.2 million to Claire, including damages for loss of spousal companionship, and loss of Tom Brown’s future earnings. The amount was lowered to $1.5 million because the state of Maine caps the amount plaintiffs may receive for loss of companionship.
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