Clark v. Sierra International Machinery

SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS DISTRICT COURT'S ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF IMPORTER AND DISTRIBUTOR OF AUTOMOBILE CRUSHING MACHINE REPRESENTED BY JOHN SOCOLOW.

During a maintenance procedure, the plaintiff jumped off the automobile crushing machine and badly fractured his arm, leaving it essentially useless and rendering him totally disabled. Plaintiff claimed the product was defective because it did not have a ladder attached to it. The damages represented a significant seven-figure exposure.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that the risk-utility test rather than the consumer expectations test applied, and that expert testimony therefore was necessary “to pin down exactly why the machine was designed in a defective way.” The Seventh Circuit also affirmed the district court's decision to exclude plaintiff's expert's opinions as unreliable and conclusory, and therefore inadmissible under Daubert and Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Because plaintiff could not present expert testimony on a critical element of his case -- the issue of defective design -- the Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment.

John Socolow, a partner in Fitzpatrick & Hunt, Pagano, Aubert, LLP's New York and Connecticut offices, handled the case from start to finish, including preparing the briefs and arguing the case before the Seventh Circuit.