Guerin v. Briggs & Startton Power Products Group LLC

Full title: CHRIS GUERIN, a resident of the Town of Monmouth, County of Kennebec…

Court: Superior Court of Maine

Date published: Mar 25, 2013

Facts

Plaintiff Chris Guerin brought a products liability claim against the manufacturer (Briggs & Stratton Power Products Group, LLC (“Briggs & Stratton), and the seller (Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc. (Lowe’s)) of a portable generator that he purchased in February 2008 and that he claims caused personal injuries. He alleges breach of Implied Warranty, Strict Liability and Negligence. A bench trial was held on October 29 and 30, 2012. In lieu of closing arguments, the Court received the parties’ written arguments on December 7, 2012.

At trial, the Court heard from Plaintiff and his witnesses, Christopher Curtis of Jay, Wendy Parent of Sabattus, and, David Dodge, a Safety Engineer and Consultant. The Court also heard from Gregory Marchand of Waukesha, Wisconsin, Product Safety and Compliance Manager and corporate representative for Briggs & Stratton. In addition to the sworn testimony, numerous exhibits, including but not limited to the design specifications for the generator handle and grip, pictures of Plaintiff’s garage, and Plaintiff’s medical records, were also received into evidence. The generator was also presented for demonstrative purposes.

Issue

Decision

Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the Briggs & Stratton handle assembly design requires each “grip to be pressed fully on [the handle] tube.” In this case, the Court finds that Plaintiff has proved that it is more likely than not that the grip was not pressed fully on the handle. The failure to fully apply the grip onto the handle increased the potential for the grip to slip or slide. It is more likely than not that the grip did slip or slide, causing Plaintiff to lose control of the generator and it fell with the bottom of the support leg striking and lacerating his left heel. The defect in the handle and grip assembly on this generator made use of the generator unreasonably dangerous to the user. Evidence presented by the Defendants acknowledged that the manufacturer of a portable generator would expect the generator to be pushed or pulled by the grips on the handles. An ordinary user of a portable generator would not contemplate that the grip on a preassembled handle would slip or slide while using the generator as expected.

The Court finds that the Plaintiff established by a preponderance of the evidence that on the day of his injury, there was no significant change in the condition of the generator from the condition it was in when sold. When he purchased the generator it was in a sealed box. He unpacked and assembled it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The grips were already attached to the handles and did not require further assembly. The generator was stored inside his garage and he only started it on occasion. It was in the same condition as the day he bought and assembled it.

Having satisfied his burden on Count 1 – strict liability, the Court finds in favor of Plaintiff.

Implied Warranty

Under Maine’s Uniform Commercial Code, “a warranty that . . . goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind.” 11 M.R.S.A. § 2-314(1). To qualify, goods must “pass without objection in the trade under the contract description, ” id. § 2-314(2)(a), and be “fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used, ” id. § 2-314(2)(c). See also Lorfano v. Dura Stone Steps, Inc., 569 A.2d 195, 197 (Me. 1990).

For the reasons discussed above regarding the generator’s defect, Lowe’s breached its implied warranty of merchantability. A generator with improperly applied grips cannot pass “without objection in the trade under the contract description” and was not “fit for the ordinary purposes for which [generators] are used.”

Also for the reasons stated above, Briggs & Stratton, by selling the defective generator to Lowe’s, is also liable to Plaintiff because he is a person whom Briggs & Stratton “might reasonably have expected to use, consume or be affected by the [generator].” 11 M.R.S. §2-318.

Having satisfied his burden on Count 2 – Implied Warranty, the Court finds in favor of Plaintiff.

Damages

There is no dispute that Plaintiff’s Achilles heel injury was caused by the generator incident.

Evidence of Plaintiff’s certified medical records – including all treatment related to the incident and medical bills incurred in the amount of $14, 508.14 -was admitted without objection.

Evidence of Plaintiff’s ongoing treatment and physical therapy from October 20, 2009, through February 4, 2010, was admitted without objection.

Evidence of the difficulties Plaintiff has gone through since his injury, as well as evidence that he continues to experience occasional discomfort with his Achilles tendon, was presented without objection; and,

Evidence that Plaintiff has a significant surgical scar on his left heel was admitted without objection.

The Court finds that the damages Plaintiff, Chris Guerin, sustained as the result of the defect in the generator manufactured by Briggs & Stratton and sold by Lowe’s include the following:

Medical Expenses

To compensate the Plaintiff for the reasonable value of medical services including examination and care by doctors and other medical personnel, hospital care and treatment, medicine, and other medical supplies shown by the evidence to have been reasonably required and used in treatment and care of the Plaintiff, the Court awards Plaintiff: $14, 508.14

Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life

To compensate Plaintiff for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish already suffered and, for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish that the Court finds Plaintiff is reasonably certain to suffer in the future, the Court awards Plaintiff: $57, 000.00

Permanent scarring

The Court awards Plaintiff $3, 500.00

Total damages: $75, 008.14

The Clerk is directed to incorporate this Order by reference on the docket under M.R.Civ.P. 79(a), and the entry is:

Judgment for Defendants on Count 3.

Judgment for Plaintiff on Counts 1 and 2 in the total amount of Seventy-Five Thousand Eight Dollars and Fourteen Cents ($75, 008.14).

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

18 − 13 =