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Product Liability- Heirs v. Equipment Rental Center

In Heirs v. Equipment Rental Center (No.Cal.Sup.Ct.) Doris Cheng and Andrew McDevitt represented the wife and five adult children of a retired 62-year-old man who died after being thrown from a rented mini-tractor. Following an unwitnessed roll-over, the machine was found overturned with its loader arms fully extended. The decedent was assisting one of his children in evacuating a home storm water drainage pit. The decedent visited a local equipment rental facility to obtain a mini-excavator for the project. The rental yard selected the piece of equipment for the job. The machine’s manufacturer originally designed the machine as a walk-behind device, adding a stand-on option years later. The stand-on platform allowed the operator to “ride” on the machine but triggered the risk of ejection. While using the excavator to dig out the drainage pit, the machine pitched forward and catapulted the decedent into the pit causing fatal head injuries. Plaintiffs alleged that the device, when equipped with a platform, was defective. Defendants denied fault and instead blamed the decedent, alleging mis-use and failure to follow instructions. Two weeks prior to trial, after extensive discovery and following three sessions of mediation and a judicially supervised settlement conference, a global settlement in the amount of $4.75 million was reached.