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$500,000 Settlement for Products Liability Case

Carol Potts v. Mark Control Corporation

Cases Synopsis:

This products liability action arose from two pieces of defective equipment that injured the plaintiff. The injury occurred when plaintiff, age 47, was attempting to close an overhead valve that was installed 9 feet above ground level at the BP Oil Refinery in Marcus Hook, PA, plaintiff’s place of employment. Connected to the hand wheel of the overhead valve was a chain-wheel device that permitted the valve to be opened from ground level. The chain-wheel device was attached to the valve hand wheel and a chain hung from the chain-wheel device that allowed an operator to pull on it to open or close the valve. The chain-wheel device was manufactured by Babbitt Steam Specialty, Inc. The valve involved in the plaintiff’s accident was manufactured by Mark Controls Corporation.

Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the roll pin that secured the hand wheel to the shaft of the valve had sheered several days before her accident. The plaintiff’s employer had wired the valve shut and requested maintenance to correct it. Unfortunately, the wire was removed before plaintiff’s accident and the pin was not repaired.

When the plaintiff pulled on the chain-wheel device to close the valve, the valve hand wheel and chain-wheel sprocket slipped off the valve shaft striking the plaintiff in her nose resulting in her collapsing to the ground.

The plaintiff challenged the design of the valve claiming it was unsafe because the roll pin should not have served the dual purpose of both securing the hand wheel and the valve shaft and transmitting the torque from the hand wheel to the valve shaft to enable the valve to be opened and closed. Plaintiff also criticized the design of the chain-wheel sprocket for its failure to have a restraining device to keep it and the valve hand wheel from falling to the ground in the event they separated from the valve shaft.

The defendants countered by claiming that the hand wheel on the valve at the time of the plaintiff’s accident was not the hand wheel as originally provided with the valve. The original hand wheel was 12 inches in diameter made of aluminum weighing less than a pound. The substitute hand wheel was 24 inches in diameter made of cast iron weighing considerably more. Also, the retaining pin was not the original retaining pin as the employer’s records showed that the pin had been replaced a year before the accident. Defendants also claimed that the accident was caused by the plaintiff’s employer’s failure to lockout and tag out the valve after it was discovered to have been broken.

The defendants also disputed the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff suffered a slight concussion and the plaintiffs had no objective evidence of any cognitive dysfunction or impairment. The defendants also claimed that the plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages after having been load off from BP Oil Refinery.

The plaintiff suffered a fractured nose, post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic vertigo, and impaired concentration and memory recall. The plaintiff incurred $24,000 in medical bills. Her wage loss claimed was $148,000.


Outcome of the Case:

We negotiated a $500,000 settlement for our client.