Using a Vocational Expert in a Product Liability Case

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Each product liability case will have its own unique set of facts and damages that affect the life of the plaintiff differently than any other person who may have a similar case. It is therefore important for the attorney and expert witnesses on a case to make these damages clear to a judge and jury. For example, in one case, a man working with a woodchipper lost his leg. In addition to seeking damages for injuries associated with the loss of his leg, he experienced additional injuries because he used to be a body builder.

Product Liability Case Illustration
This accident occurred at a residence where the plaintiff, an 18 year old laborer, was working. The plaintiff testified that he was feeding a tree limb into the chute of a woodchipper, which weighed several thousand pounds and measured 6 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet, when a branch protruding from the limb became stuck against the outside edge of the feed chute. The branch would not go through, so the plaintiff kicked at the branch to free it, but his momentum carried his foot into the feed-chute, where it came in contact with the feedwheels.

The plaintiff sued Morbark Industries, who designed and manufactured the woodchipper. The plaintiff contended that the woodchipper was negligently designed in that the feed-chute was too low to the ground and too shallow in depth from front to back, which allowed the operator to be exposed to the feedwheels. He also claimed the machine was negligently designed because there was no emergency kill switch to shut off the machine, and no way for someone who is trapped by the wheel to free himself. The plaintiff also contended that the feedwheel control bar was inaccessible to anyone trapped by the wheels.

Injuries and Recovery
The plaintiff had to have an above the knee amputation of his affected left leg. This required four operations, a month of hospitalization, and an additional month in a rehabilitation facility. He also suffered psychological injuries, including temperamental outbursts, crying, frustration, and an inability to socialize. The plaintiff was a body builder before the accident, and he testified that he suffered a loss of body image and claimed that he has become withdrawn from his friends. He also claimed that he has difficulty wearing his prosthesis. Evidence indicated that he would require future surgery.

A jury awarded the plaintiff $13,699,309 in damages. This verdict was reduced to $6,849,654.50, because the plaintiff was found to be 50% comparatively negligent. $2,000,000 of this award was for past pain and suffering, $85,000 was for past medical expenses, $74,309 was for past lost earnings, $40,000 was for past custodial care, $4,000,000 was for future pain and suffering, $1,000,000 was for future medical expenses, and $6,500,000 was for future lost earnings.

OAS
Edmond Provder served as the vocational rehabilitation expert on this case. He testified that the plaintiff’s physical and mental condition prevented him from returning to work as a laborer and as a bodybuilder. This testimony laid the ground for the plaintiff’s past and future lost earnings award.

Edmond Provder, the owner of Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS), is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who has worked in the rehabilitation field as a vocational consultant since 1973. OAS is one of the best companies providing vocational expert services in the United States. The experts at OAS have assisted in many of the top personal injury cases in New York and New Jersey. Contact us at 800-292-1919.