This jury verdict sheet read:

$ 4.9 million for the plaintiff

zero comparative negligence.

The case went through one appeal before the trial, reversing summary judgment for the defendant, and one appeal after the trial, which affirmed the liability verdict but ordered a new trial on damages. It was settled before the new trial on damages.

The plaintiff prefers to keep a low profile, so I have not used his name.

Seminar Presentation on Trial Preparation

Below is a presentation discussing preparation of the case, given at a bar association function before the trial.

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Steps in Presenting the Personal Injury Case

Below is the complete trial transcript, which sometimes makes good reading.

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Trial Transcript

Trial Transcriptl  

The Dough Maker case

The Case

This was a difficult, but fairly typical, products liability case. The plaintiff, an 18 year old illegal immigrant from a little farming town in Mexico, was assigned to work on a half-broken doughmaker. As he was pulling out the dough, his hand was caught in the augurs, and he lost three fingers of his right hand.

The machine involved had been manufactured in the 1950s by a Dutch company that had gone out of business. The case therefore had to be against the company that sold the machine in the United States.

We were at the plant within five days of the accident. The owner of the plant told us that he had bought the machine from a company named National Equipment Corp.

We sued them, and then, at their deposition, they said they had no record or recollection of ever selling such a machine, and that they would never have sold it without a guard.

The owner of the plant now said, at his deposition, that he wasn't sure where he bought the machine, that it could have been bought at an auction, instead of from National Equipment Corp.

None of the companies had any records going back to the 1970s, when the machine was purchased.

It was a problem.

We tracked down the son of the man who owned the company in Holland that manufactured the machine. After two years of communicating with them, they agreed to talk to us.

The daughter in law gave us an affidavit that she had worked in the business department of the manufacturing company, and that the only US distributor they had for dough making machines was National Equipment Corp. The first judge dismissed the case, nevertheless, on the grounds there was no proof National Equipment sold the machine.

We appealed the dismissal, and the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed, holding that the statement of the owner that he purchased the machine from National Equipment, and the affidavit that National Equipment was the only US distributor for the machines, was sufficient evidence.

We then had to get the Dutch witness to agree to come to New York to testify on behalf of this immigrant worker. It took over a year to coordinate it, but we were lucky, because she was just a very decent person, and agreed to come to New York to testify, because, as she testified, "it was the right thing to do."

She testified at trial that National Equipment Corp. was their only distributor in the US. She further testified that the dough making machines they made in the 1950s did not have any guard over the augurs. The regulations in Holland did not require them.

A professor from MIT testified as an expert for the plaintiff that since 1928, regulations in New York had required dough making machines to have interlocked guards over the augurs, to prevent just this type of accident. He produced books from 1928 describing the guarding required. He also produced international standards dating from 1948 requiring such guarding.

National Equipment denied at trial that they sold the machine. They produced records of sales, and they didn't show this machine. On cross-examination, they admitted though that the records they produced were sales of new machines only, not used machines, and that they did sell used machines too. They answered that they kept no records of sales of used machines.

The plaintiff's employer blamed the plaintiff, of course.

The jury deliberated for several days, and returned with a verdict sheet finding that the manufacturer was 25% at fault, the employer was 75% at fault, and the plaintiff was not at fault at all. The verdict sheet awarded damages in the amount of 4.9 million dollars.

Naturally, the case was appealed for all sorts of reasons, and the case was settled on appeal. The plaintiff, an 18 year old illegal immigrant at the time of the accident, now lives happily in the United States.