Product Liability Cases

Cash Settlement-10/2/2013. Linda Hatfield, et al. v. Ford Motor Company, et al., Auto State Court of Bibb County, Georgia.

As Mrs. Hatfield and her family drove down Interstate 16 in a 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis, a tractor-trailer merged into their lane struck the car in the rear. The car was forced off the road, then it rolled over. Tragically, Ford Motor Company had manufactured the car with a defectively weak roof. When the roof hit the ground, the portion over Mrs. Hatfield caved in and struck her in the head, forcing her head forward and down. The collapsing roof broke her neck, leaving Mrs. Hatfield paralyzed from the neck down. On behalf of Mrs. Hatfield and her husband, we filed suit against the trucking company and Ford Motor Company. We took the case all the way through trial, completing a 2.5-week trial on October 2. When the jury announced that it had reached a verdict, but before the jury could announce what the verdict was, Ford made an offer to settle the case. The Hatfield family accepted. The amount of the settlement is confidential.


On Christmas day 2008, Mr. Bates was paralyzed when a Uniroyal Laredo tire manufactured by Michelin suffered a tread separation and came apart, causing the vehicle to go out of control and roll over. Mr. Bates was driving a GMC Jimmy at the time of the incident. Plaintiffs alleged the tire contained numerous design and manufacturing defects, including the absence of a nylon cap. The case was plagued by Michelin's unrelenting and unrepentant discovery abuse leading to a meticulously detailed and documented 60-page order issued by Judge Totenberg finding that Michelin had "engaged in a pattern of subterfuge and withholding relevant and responsive documents," "acted willfully in violating the Court's discovery orders," and "engaged in a pattern of prejudicial discovery abuse ...throughout the course of this litigation." The Court held these serial abuses warranted the substantive sanction of issue preclusion. The case settled for a confidential amount.


On November 10, 2005 Leonard and Nancy Heavrin were killed when a Firestone Steeltex Radial R4S II tire on another vehicle suffered a belt/tread separation and then exploded, causing the vehicle to go out of control, cross the median and strike the Heavrin vehicle head-on, decapitating both Mr. and Mrs. Heavrin, who were on their way to visit family members in Florida. The striking vehicle was an F-250 pickup truck which was traveling on Interstate 24 near Manchester, Tennessee when the wreck occurred. The Firestone Steeltex tires at issue were manufactured at Firestone's now-closed Decatur, Illinois plant. Other tires manufactured at the Decatur, Illinois plant were recalled by Firestone and the plant was shut down shortly after the tire at issue was manufactured due to quality problems. In addition to manufacturing defects, one of the design defects claimed by Plaintiffs was Bridgestone/Firestone's failure to include a nylon cap in the design of the tire. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Product Liability / Fuel Tank / Trailer Hitch / Seat Back / Door Design

Gibson v. Ford Motor Co., Draw-Tite, Inc. and Burns
$13,000,000 Verdict - 12/16/05

State Court of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Autie Gibson sued Ford, Draw-Tite and Burns after Autie's wife, Ann Marie Gibson, burned alive when her 1985 Ford Marquis was struck in the rear by the Burns vehicle. Mrs. Gibson's Ford had a defective, "pinto-esque" bumper fuel tank located in the known rear crush zone. The bumper tank exploded when it was punctured by the sharp bolts on a defective, uncrashworthy Draw-Tite trailer hitch also on the Gibson vehicle and designed by Draw-Tite for that model. Mrs. Gibson's Ford seatback was also defective. It failed by collapsing rearward in the crash, which dropped Mrs. Gibson's head and upper torso into the flames initially located only in the back seat. The door system on the Ford was also defective: Mrs. Gibson's doors were jammed shut, and could not be opened as a result of the impact. While rescuers at the scene attempted to unjam the doors, Mrs. Gibson was trapped inside the burning car, screaming and frantically trying to extinguish the flames in her hair.

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Professional Negligence / Product Liability / Wrongful Death
Cash and Structured Settlement

A negligently designed, 18-ton concrete seating section at the Phillips Arena in downtown Atlanta collapsed during construction and fell, crushing and killing welder Sam Caraway. Mr. Caraway's widow brought a wrongful death suit against 11 defendants, including the architects, structural engineers, inspectors and designers of the seating section.

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Product Liability / Wrongful Death
Cash Settlement

Surviving parents sued after Dwight Pollard died when the aerial lift he was working in crashed to the ground after two of the cables which supported the lift failed. Pollard v. Asplundh Tree Expert Company and Altec Industries, Inc., State Court of Clayton County, Georgia.(11/1/99).

Pharmaceutical Product Liability / Wrongful Death
Cash Settlement

A 53-year-old woman, who regularly drank wine and alcohol but was in good health, was prescribed extra strength acetaminophen, four times a day, by her doctor after she was diagnosed with bronchitis. After taking the recommended dose for four days, she became restless and confused and was taken to the emergency room with elevated liver enzymes and a diagnosis of sudden liver failure. She was transported to the University of Birmingham Hospital but was too sick for an emergency liver transplant which was her only chance for survival. She died two days after being hospitalized with fulminate liver failure. Plaintiff & Estate v. Major Drug Manufacturer, United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Columbus Division (7/2/98).

Pharmaceutical Product Liability / Wrongful Death
Cash Settlement

Wrongful death case brought for the death of a doctor's wife who died in her sleep after taking one extra tablet of Hismanal, an antihistamine developed and marketed by Janssen and Johnson & Johnson. The medical examiner who did an autopsy determined the cause of death to be a fatal cardiac arrhythmia caused by Hismanal, a drug prescribed for allergies and runny noses. Kaufman v. Janssen Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson, State Court of Fulton County, Georgia (5/15/97).

Product Liability/ Pharmaceutical
Pharmaceutical product liability case against major Japanese pharmaceutical company.
Cash Settlement

Client became seriously ill after taking contaminated tablets of L-Tryptophan, a substance classified by the FDA as a food but marketed and sold in the U.S. for its medicinal qualities. Plaintiff suffered EMS (Eosinophilic Myalgia Syndrome), an inflammatory condition which affects the connective and muscle tissues causing extreme pain, physical debilitation, nerve degeneration, and in some cases, death. She has severe EMS, which will affect her for the remainder of her life. Shirley Rainwater v. Showa Denko, Inc., et al., United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia (2/14/95).

Product Liability / High Rise Building Fire / Wrongful Death
Cash Settlement

Defective electrical system, toxic wall coverings and building materials led to the initiation and rapid spread of fire. Plaintiffs included the surviving spouse of a tenant who suffered smoke inhalation injuries and survived the fire.

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Product Liability
$600,000 Cash Settlement

Loss of eye from caustic soda burn caused by defective packaging equipment; failure to guard or to warn. 2/7/92. Anderson v. Pack West Machinery, Inc., Superior Court of Henry County, Georgia.

Product Liability
$750,000 Cash Settlement

Negligent failure to repair lift gate assembly on truck resulting in back injury. 6/29/87. Storey v. Reliable Hydraulics, Inc., Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia.

At Butler Wooten & Peak LLP, we have the resources and experience it takes to successfully pursue complex personal injury, wrongful death and product liability litigation. Contact us today. We would be happy to discuss your case with you.