Linares v. Crown Equipment Corporation

Feb 28, 2018 – United States District Court, Riverside, CA

On February 28, 2018, following a seven-day trial, it took a federal jury fewer than 45 minutes to render a unanimous defense verdict in favor of Crown Equipment Corporation. The case was tried in the United States District Court for the Central District of California (Riverside), before U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal.

The case of Jose Linares v. Crown Equipment Corporation arose out of an industrial accident that occurred in May 2014, while Mr. Linares was operating a Crown RR5020 stand-up forklift at a Cardinal Health medical supply warehouse in Ontario, California. Mr. Linares was attempting to turn into an aisle when, he claimed, the steering malfunctioned and caused the forklift to strike the end post of a metal guardrail. Prior to the impact, Mr. Linares’s left foot extended outside of the operator compartment, and it was crushed between the forklift and the end post.

Plaintiff alleged that Crown was negligent in the service and maintenance of the forklift; specifically, the steering system. He also contended that the design of the forklift was defective for lack of a door in the entryway to the operator compartment. He sustained a crushing injury and loss of his left heel pad, which allegedly resulted in the development of complex regional pain syndrome and inability to work. He also attributed post-traumatic stress disorder to the incident.

Immediately prior to jury selection, Plaintiff elected to pursue his design defect theory solely under the consumer expectation test. As a result, the Court precluded evidence that Crown would have presented regarding compliance with federal regulations, compliance with industry standards, the science and testing that supported Crown’s open-compartment design, and the life-threatening risks that a compartment door would pose to operators involved in off-the-dock and tip-over accidents.

During the trial, Crown proved that the forklift was not defective in any respect. Rather, the forklift performed exactly as its ordinary consumers—trained forklift operators—would expect. The defense established that low-speed collisions with fixed objects are entirely safe for the operator provided the operator follows his/her training and remains inside the operator compartment, but can cause injury when the operator puts a foot or other body part outside of the forklift. Crown further proved that forklift was properly maintained, and, when required, properly repaired. Despite the need to repair or replace certain steering system components at various times prior to the accident, those components did not affect the actual function of the steering system. Moreover, other than Plaintiff’s claim in this case, there had not been a single complaint about the actual steering on the forklift from the time it was put into service at Cardinal Health to the present time.

Crown was represented at trial by Todd Cavanaugh of Yukevich | Cavanaugh and Thomas Cullen of Goodell Devries.