A $7 safety device on a truck’s dump-bed kit made by Heil Co. would have prevented a man’s death, but the company didn’t include it on the product and failed to warn of the dangers of the product despite the fact that the safety device had been in use on similar products for 60 years. These facts led a jury to conclude that the widow of an Ohio man killed by the product should receive $6 Million. The accident occurred when the man accidentally hit a control valve on the outside of his 1978 Ford truck, causing the dump-bed to silently lower and trap him against the frame of the truck within 4 seconds.
Heil Company alleged that the dead man was at fault for the accident because he failed to brace the bed while performing maintenance on the truck. After the jury verdict was received, Heil Co. appealed the case arguing that the evidence in the case didn’t support the verdict. The appeals court rejected the appeal and upheld the verdict, in part because the company waived many of the objections raised in the appeal by not making them at trial.
This case is consistent with many cases involving defective products in that too often a very cheap addition to the product would have prevented serious injury and even death. Moreover, it is frequently learned during the litigation that companies were aware of the risks, but failed to pass that knowledge on to consumers so that they could protect themselves. While time-consuming and expensive, product liability lawsuits can prevent future injuries and deaths.