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Hinshaw's Product Liability service area is comprised of dedicated, highly skilled attorneys who have in-depth, technical knowledge across a wide range of disciplines, including engineering, science, and healthcare. Our product cases involve commercial disputes as well as catastrophic injury, wrongful death, property damage and personal injury matters. We often defend our clients in product liability class actions and multi-district litigation. Additionally, as a national firm with significant depth of experience in litigation, Hinshaw is uniquely positioned to serve as National or Regional Litigation Counsel.

Our coordinated approach is designed to meet our clients' needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Our broad industry experience and deep technical insight allow us to identify all issues relevant to building a sound legal strategy. In the face of litigation, Hinshaw provides a range of services to defend you. When appropriate, we look to minimize litigation and effectively utilize cost-saving strategies such as alternative dispute resolution. Our attorneys will:

  • Conduct an early and accurate claim evaluation to determine the potential exposure and identify an appropriate strategy for disposition
  • Litigate cases locally but manage centrally to ensure a consistent approach, track trends and minimize risks of future litigation
  • Utilize an established network of proven and respected experts and consultants with jury experience across the country
  • Defend products against attack in single and multi-claim lawsuits

Hinshaw's attorneys are highly familiar with the plaintiffs' bar's products experts, and have deposed or cross-examined some of them dozens of times across the country. Additionally, the firm's extensive network of the world's best experts in many different fields ensures we create the best defense for our clients. We understand the special requirements and expectations of loss prevention managers, corporate risk specialists, corporate counsel and claims managers, and we routinely implement budgeting, communications and cost-containment criteria to satisfy the most demanding clients.

Also, more and more, as product liability problems expand beyond civil litigation, our attorneys regularly counsel clients in the full spectrum of legal issues arising from product manufacturing and distribution, including development of product literature and labeling content, management of product recalls, and drafting of sales and distribution agreements and related contract documents. Our attorneys will:

  • Perform hazard analysis and design consulting
  • Develop product literature and labeling content
  • Draft sales and distribution agreements and related contract documents
  • Manage product recalls
  • Develop strategies to protect clients in the court of public opinion

Our attorneys have deep knowledge of the business operations and legal issues unique to a number of industries and sectors:

Medical Device and Pharmaceuticals
 

We represent medical device and pharmaceutical clients in a multitude of individual and mass tort litigation matters. Our clients include health care entities, drug manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and other product manufacturers and distributors in the life sciences sector. Such claims typically involve allegations of negligence and strict tort liability and often fall under state product liability acts, consumer protection acts, related statutes, and plead design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn theories.

Our cases often involve FDA certification and regulation of various products. Our attorneys thoroughly understand FDA regulations and have access to experts to support our clients' positions and defenses. We handle cases in all forums, including individual matters, class actions, MDL, consolidated actions, and regulatory proceedings.

Appliances and Outdoor Power Equipment
 

Hinshaw attorneys represent some of the country's best-known manufacturers of appliances and outdoor power equipment products. The representation includes single-party litigation, multidistrict litigation, consolidated proceedings, and in some cases, class actions. We have advised on and managed product recalls and regularly advise on preventive activities, including product literature and labeling, warranties, supplier and customer agreements, contracts, and failure mode and effects analysis.

With technical understanding across a wide range of disciplines and working knowledge of applicable government regulations and industry standards, Hinshaw attorneys assist companies in this sector in product liability matters involving personal injury, death, property damage, and breach of warranty. We use and leverage an extensive network of local and national experts, beginning with product development all the way to trial.

Chemicals, Coatings, Building Products, and Other Products
 

Hinshaw's product liability team represents manufacturers and distributors of all types of chemicals, coatings, building components, and other products. We have successfully defended single-plaintiff and class action litigation against manufacturers of industrial chemicals, paints and coatings, windows and doors, products for the printing industry, adhesives and solvents, and plastics and polymers, among others. Cases have included claims of personal injury and property damage due to alleged exposure to or use of substances such as hydrofluoric acid, caustic soda, chlorine, Talon G, carbon disulphide, pentachlorophenol, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, hydrochloric acid, PCBs, silica, and heavy metals.

Beverage and Food Ingredients
 

Hinshaw attorneys have defended scores of lawsuits filed in state and federal courts across the country seeking damages for alleged catastrophic respiratory injury and disease, gastrointestinal disorders, skin disorders, neurologic damage, and other injuries as a consequence of claimed exposures to diacetyl, acetoin, acetaldehyde, butanedione, and flavors containing these ingredients and related substances. Hinshaw developed and implemented defense strategies for varying classes of suits brought by individuals exposed in industrial settings to ingredients, flavors, and foods containing these and other ingredients, as well as consumers allegedly injured by consumption of foodstuffs containing these substances. The firm has extensive experience investigating and defending foodborne illness and food safety claims.

Vehicle and Vehicle Component Parts
 

Hinshaw's product liability team includes experienced trial lawyers whose practices focus on the automobile, truck, and recreational vehicle and component parts industries. This representation includes tort and warranty litigation, state lemon law claims, class actions, and regulatory proceedings. Hinshaw attorneys have successfully handled matters in numerous state and federal courts on behalf of manufacturers, distributors, and insurers. In many instances, our lawyers have participated in trials resulting in state and federal appellate court decisions leading to the development of product liability and warranty law. The firm provides additional assistance to clients on the implementation and management of compliance and warranty programs, as well as drafting of product safety warnings and instructions. Firm clients include automobile, truck, recreational vehicle manufacturers, component part manufacturers, insurers of those manufacturers, and others.

News

Representative products liability cases handled by Hinshaw are as follows:

  • Obtained a jury verdict in favor of Rudd Industries, which manufactured an FAA air traffic controller chair. The plaintiff contended that an adjustable height control mechanism for the air traffic controller's chair (manufactured in Germany and distributed by a company in the Netherlands) malfunctioned, allegedly causing the chair to rapidly descend and cause a back injury that the plaintiff claimed prevented him from returning to work as an air traffic controller. Third-party actions for contribution were filed in that matter against the foreign manufacturer and distributor of the failed component part.
  • Obtained a jury verdict in favor of Evenflo Company in an alleged brain injury case to a four-year-old child resulting from an alleged defective child car seat. The jury was asked to determine the crash worthiness of the child restraint system; misuse by the mother; and causation and damages.
  • Obtained a verdict in favor of Walgreen Co. in an action brought for a misfilled prescription wherein the plaintiff alleged brain injury resulting in total and complete cognitive impairment. A claim for punitive damages was allowed to be heard by the jury. The initial demand was $200 million. An appeal was not filed.
  • Represented Lucent Technologies, Inc. in a products liability action to recover approximately $33 million for property damage to a Class I Clean Room and losses to production of semi-conductor wafers against manufacturers of two faulty valves resulting in the release of hydrochloric acid within the Clean Room. The case settled for $25 million before the trial was set to commence in September 2005.
  • Represented the The Upjohn Company in Northern Trust v. Upjohn Company. The plaintiff, a woman, underwent an abortion procedure at a Chicago hospital. During the procedure, she sustained permanent brain damage as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest. Her claim included allegations of medical malpractice against the treating physician and hospital, and product liability against The Upjohn Company. After six weeks of trial and one week of jury deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of $9.5 million against all defendants. On appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the decision and entered judgment in favor of all the defendants. The appellate decision established new law in Illinois that expert testimony is required on drug product liability warnings cases and reiterated that changes in packet inserts after an incident are inadmissible.
  • Represented Maren Engineering in Walters v. Maren Engineering in which an employee at a Kansas paper recycling company severely injured his hand in an altered and modified recycling machine. A choice of law motion filed on the eve of trial resulted in the application of Kansas' several liability law. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's application of foreign law, and Kansas practitioners use this case as an example of the requirements for advancing a several liability and phantom defendant defense.
  • Represented Astro Amusement Company in Roland v. Astro Amusement Company. The plaintiff, a 45-year-old U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, sustained a frontal lobotomy injury after he walked around protective fencing and into the path of a fully operating amusement ride. The demand on the case was $2 million; the offer on the case included a structured settlement package valued at $400,000. After a three-week trial, the jury returned a verdict in two hours in favor of all the defendants. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's evidentiary rulings concerning demonstrative evidence used by the defendants and reinterpreted Illinois law on the duty owed to trespassers.
  • Represented Westinghouse in Stojkovich v. Westinghouse. An inebriated passenger escaped out of a stalled elevator car, fell down the shaft, and sustained significant traumatic head injury. Although the defendant's New York vice-president criticized the local elevator maintenance manager, calling his supervision of the elevator maintenance services "negligent," the jury only assessed 25 percent responsibility on the elevator service company. The defense's pre-trial and trial objections to allowing punitive damages claim were upheld on appeal. The appellate decision established standards of review for trial court evidentiary and non-evidentiary hearings on appropriateness of a punitive damages claim.
  • Obtained a favorable verdict on behalf of Whirlwind in a case in which the plaintiff, a chronically unemployed individual being trained for new work, had his hand amputated in an industrial work saw at a training center. A policy limits demand was made on the product manufacturer, who maintained that he would rather have his family business go bankrupt than pay the plaintiff anything. The defense claimed the plaintiff was not entitled to an award because of his assumption of risk as well as faulty training and maintenance by the plaintiff's employer.  
  • Represented Holloway Equipment Ltd. in a commercial motor vehicle accident case in which the plaintiff sustained disabling leg injuries after being crushed by a Canadian truck driver's nine axle low boy trailer as it was being loaded. Although the company client was no longer in operation and the truck driver could not be located for deposition or trial testimony, the jury was convinced that the accident was caused either by the contributory negligence of the plaintiff or the combined negligence of two third-party defendants who settled directly with the plaintiff before and during the trial.
  • Obtained a favorable jury verdict on behalf of the doctor in Krause v. DuPont and Dr. Greaves. The minor plaintiff in this malpractice case was born prematurely with intraventricular hemorrhage, and subsequently developed cerebral palsy and other serious medical conditions. The plaintiff's case blamed these conditions on the drug Coumadin, taken by the mother during her first trimester of pregnancy and prescribed by the family physician represented by Hinshaw. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to warn of the drug's harmful effects in early pregnancy and sought more than $2.5 million in damages. The drug manufacturer and other defendants settled before trial. Dr. Greaves was the sole defendant remaining at trial.
  • Represented General Electric in Professional Properties v. General Electric. An Alton, Ill., office building owned by the plaintiff was destroyed by a fire that began in a deep fat fryer manufactured by General Electric. The plaintiff alleged that the fryer overheated and caused the fire due to defective wiring. The undisputed property loss resulted in stipulated damages of $550,000. The case was tried on the sole issue of liability, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of our client.  
  • Represented the distributor, Sears, in O'Leary v. SEARS and Chilton Corp. The plaintiff, a child, was severely burned when a gas can he was using near an open flame exploded. Sears, the distributor of the gas can that was manufactured to its specifications, was named a defendant against defect allegations for the can's lack of a flame impingement screen. The plaintiff's damages demand remained constant at $7 million up until the time of trial. Hinshaw ultimately achieved a settlement of $1.5 million for our client; the co-defendant paid $2 million.
  • Represented the manufacturer in Greer v. McDonough Manufacturing Company in which the plaintiff claimed an industrial resaw was improperly guarded under the ANSI standards. The plaintiff was employed in a pallet company as a laborer either flipping or stacking wood. He alleged that a piece of wood was stuck in the resaw and that he had been instructed on how to pull or align the wood so it would catch. In performing this maneuver, his right hand was pulled into the rollers and to the blade resulting in amputation of two digits on his right hand and significant disfiguring and disabling injuries to tendons and muscles. The plaintiff sought $1.2 million from the jury. The jury returned a verdict of $60,000, but assessed 95 percent of the fault to the plaintiff and 5 percent to defendant, resulting in a verdict of $3,050. A motion for a new trial on damages was denied.
  • Obtained a jury verdict in favor of QT&T in Choura v. QT&T, Inc. The  plaintiff claimed that a telephone manufactured by our client was unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiff claimed hearing loss as a result of a loud ring that came through the earpiece when the plaintiff was using the phone. The defense was handicapped since the only assets of the company were insurance due to a bankruptcy of the client several years prior to trial. No defense witnesses were available, and all defenses presented to the jury were necessarily made by way of cross-examination of the plaintiff and plaintiff's witnesses. The plaintiff asked for a verdict in the amount of $117,000.00 and verdict was rendered by the jury in favor of the defendant.
  • On behalf of Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc., in a span of approximately 18 months, Hinshaw obtained summary judgment in five separate product liability actions involving wrongful death and personal injury claims allegedly resulting from defects in different products manufactured by Furnas Electric Co., a division of Siemens.
  • Obtained a verdict in favor of Kokomo in a case claiming negligent manufacture of a tanning bed that collapsed on the plaintiff causing back and shoulder injuries. The demand before trial was $150,000. 
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