Faulty Car Jack Stand
On March 11th, 2011, a student of the University of Connecticut died after his car fell on him, crushing him to his death. According to his family, the young man was changing the oil in the car and was using a jack stand from Sears to support the vehicle. He had bought the brand-new jack stand just a couple of months prior.
False Engagement of the Jack Stand
The victim’s family has filed a lawsuit against Sears, the jack stand seller, following the horrible accident. An expert brought in by the plaintiffs has concluded that it is possible the jack stand was “falsely engaged,” which means, it may have appeared to be fully engaged, but in reality, it was out of alignment and less secure.
Apparently, he did not keep the jack engaged when he was performing this car maintenance. You should not just rely on one safety mechanism when underneath a car. Nonetheless, the jack stand could still be faulty here.
This false engagement may have caused the jack stand to collapse due to an outside force, releasing the heavy object – the BMW automobile – it was holding.
Evidence presented by plaintiffs’ attorneys states that the manufacturer was aware of the false engagement situation, had investigated other similar incidents, and even tested its jack stands to confirm the hazard.
It has also been proved that the manufacturer developed plans previously for the specific alternative design presented by plaintiffs (a locking pin that would hold the parts in place). However, the manufacturer decided not to develop this alternative design even though other manufacturers have already adopted it.
But if a product looks to be engaged or aligned correctly and it’s really not, then that is not something that should be on the market.
The defendants have moved for summary judgment on the product liability claim filed by plaintiffs. Judge Jeffery Meyer has not only denied this motion but also rejected the defendants’ request to strike the punitive damages claim by plaintiffs.
The judge said that a jury could reasonably find that the defendants intentionally ignored the risks posed by their jack stands. Judge Meyer also found it significant that the manufacturer created an alternative design but still chose to disregard it.
Role of the Experts
Frederick Heath, an expert in the use of jack stands, has previously testified that the jack stand in question may have experienced the false engagement phenomenon.
As we described earlier, false engagement refers to the malfunction when the jack stand’s stopper or locking pawl and ratchet bar are not secured properly, which enables an outside force to cause the bar to slide out of position, crumbling back into the stand’s base. This can cause whatever is held up by the bar to fall.
The defendants tried to have Heath’s testimony removed from the record, saying that he doesn’t have enough experience in accident reconstruction. They also argued that Heath is not qualified enough to testify in this case as an expert.
Sears claimed that Heath has no experience or knowledge in accident reconstruction other than his earlier experiences as a paid expert witness. The court did make a note of the fact that Heath doesn’t have any formal biomechanical training. But the court said that experts don’t always need a formal degree in a particular discipline to testify about it.
According to the court, Heath has worked for over 20 years as a mechanical engineering executive and has written several papers on vehicle safety, lifting, and accidents. Thus, the court concluded that Heath has the necessary qualifications to testify in this case.
The defendants have presented their own expert, James Sprague, to refute the claim. Sprague testified that the jack stand did not fail, and the accident was the victim’s fault since he only used the floor jack to lift the car which does not make sense since the floor jack is the only tool that would be used to lift the vehicle.
Sprague also said that the floor jack eventually slipped and fell, as can be proved by the scrape marks along the side of the car. But that statement or belief is also flawed because if the car jack did slip, the jack stand should have been there to protect the victim.
That’s the purpose of using a jack stand – for backup protection. So, Sprague is saying the jack stand was not used at all?
Again, the victim should have kept the car jack engaged and not just relied on the jack stand but that does not mean the jack stand was not poorly made, and the manufacturer was careless in putting it on the market.
Victims of Faulty Products Deserve Justice
The Connecticut college student’s death is just one of the thousands of fatal injuries that are caused by faulty car jacks every year. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, over 4,000 individuals are treated annually for injuries caused by jack failures. These injuries include:
- Damage to internal organs
- Dental injuries
The outcome of this case is yet to be determined, but personal injury cases involving hazardous products work their way through the legal system all the time.
Consumers should be able to buy the products they need without worrying about their safety. Remember, as a consumer, you have rights, and the legal system can ensure your interests are protected.
Watch YouTube Video: How to Lift a Car onto Jack Stands. The video below demonstrates how to use a jack stand to lift your car safely.
Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death attorney, with experience in auto products liability cases. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries resulting from a defective product, you may be able to seek damages by filing a claim against the seller, manufacturer, or marketer of that product. Call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.
I am a member of the Million Dollar Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.
Learn more about my law firm by visiting the links below:
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