Sample Verdicts

Gary Hutter, Ph.D., P.E. has successfully provided his safety and engineering expertise in many hundreds of lawsuits. Below are several summaries of such cases.

Arciniega vs. Minteq International, Inc.

Publication of Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter

"Verdict: $48,000,000

Plaintiff experts: Terry Wireman of Wireman & Associates (Industrial Safety), Gary Hutter, Ph.D. (Safety), Eugene Holland (Safety) and Mark Strauss, Ph.D. (Biomechanical Engineer)

November 20, 2004, pltf M-4l was a millwright at the ISG Burns Harbor steel mill in Portage, IN. He was descending a stationary ladder that was approximately five to six feet tall and rested on the floor of a platform which stood about nine feet off the ground. The ladder was covered with a layer of dried and hardened refractory (heat-resistant) concrete from overspray of the material that had hit it when the deft Minteq, a contractor hired by ISG to apply the concrete onto vessels that came in contact with corrosive molten iron, misapplied it. As the pltf took his first step down the ladder, the concrete broke loose in his hand, causing him to lose his grip and fall the entire 15 feet to the ground. He suffered complete and permanent T-8 paraplegia from the waist down with loss of bladder, bowel, and sexual function but returned to work in a wheelchair six months after the accident ($528,943 past medl., $4,080,033 fixture medl., past LT $19,845, impaired earnings capacity $1,400,000). His wife claimed loss of consortium. The defense contended that the refractory material was not the deft's product; that the contractor had not oversprayed; that the steel mill (which could not be named as a deft or a third-party deft in the suit because of Indiana workers compensation law) should have cleaned up the oversprayed concrete and was in violation of OSHA regulations by failing to install a handrail on the platform underneath the ladder which would have prevented the pltf‘s fall; and, that the pltf was contributorily negligent. After six hours of deliberations, the jury found Minteq guilty but also found the non-party steel mill 50 per cent at fault, a result that is permissible under Indiana law. Post-trial motions are pending by Minteq. To preserve its workers comp lien in its entirety, ISG has also filed a post-trial motion claiming it was not properly and timely identified as a non-party deft in accordance with Indiana law so that any finding of fault against it by the jury was improper. Pltfs have joined ISG's post-trial motion. Reportedly, defense counsel stepped in six weeks before the trial, replacing attorneys who suffered sanctions in the case for not disclosing the existence of a videotape showing the deft contractor applying refractory."

Covas vs. The Coleman Company, Inc.

Case summary by Mark Stageberg

"Over Thanksgiving weekend 1999, Pedro Covas, a 41-year old electrician from West Palm Beach, Florida, and his 16-year old stepson were camping in a tent in a hunting area in northern Florida.  They had used inside their tent a Coleman manufactured Focus 5 propane radiant heater and were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Autopsies of both decedents found very high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.  A product liability lawsuit was brought against the Coleman Company alleging that the Focus 5 heater was defective and unreasonably dangerous because of its design and that it provided inadequate warnings of the carbon monoxide hazard.  The jury accepted the plaintiff's claim that because of its design, the Focus 5 heater allowed it to become contaminated and which altered the propane and air mixture resulting in high levels of carbon monoxide being produced.  Critical evidence in the case were a series of tests conducted by Coleman's engineers which fully supported the plaintiff's theory that a blockage of the propane flow resulted in high levels of carbon monoxide.  Expert testimony was presented by mechanical engineer and safety expert, Gary Hutter, Ph.D. regarding the defective design, inadequate warnings and causation of the deaths.  At the conclusion of 9 days of trial, the 8-person federal court jury awarded the wife and mother of the decedents $10.1 million with a finding that Mr. Covas was 25% at fault and the boy 5% at fault.  With the reduction for the comparative negligence, the net verdict was $7.6 million.  Coleman's appeal on many issues to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was summarily and quickly rejected with a 3-page appellate decision.  With interest, Coleman paid over $8 million on the judgment award."

Lapsley vs. Xtek, Inc.

Article by Greg Fowler and Simon Castley

"The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the testimony of a plaintiffs’ expert, who opined that an equipment defect was responsible for an industrial accident and an alternative design would have prevented the disabling injury, was properly ruled admissible under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., No. 11-3313 (7th Cir., decided July 27, 2012). Accordingly, the court upheld a $2.97-million jury verdict for the plaintiffs.

The defendant challenged the plaintiffs’ expert on the ground that his opinions on “causation, alternate design and reasonable care or foreseeability lacked scientific basis and should have been excluded by the district court.” The injury at issue resulted from a jet of grease propelled from the defendant’s machine with such force that it made a hole in the plaintiff employee’s chest, broke several ribs, filled his chest cavity, and created an exit wound through his back. After 11 surgeries, his physicians were apparently unable to remove all the grease, some of which has fused with the plaintiff’s internal tissues.

Noting that the scientific physics principles on which expert Gary Hutter supported his opinions “were published centuries ago by some of the most famous names in science, and those principles have been used and tested (i.e., peer reviewed) by physicists and engineers for centuries,” the court found that his mathematical models “appear to be well-grounded in the facts and data available.” The opinion reproduces some of the expert’s mathematical notations and observes that they represent “basic equations of classical mechanics … first published in 1687 by Sir Isaac Newton” and further developed by others relying on Newtonian principles since then.

The opinion reproduces some of the expert’s mathematical notations and observes that they represent “basic equations of classical mechanics … first published in 1687 by Sir Isaac Newton” and further developed by others relying on Newtonian principles since then."

Pipala vs. Resourse Management 09 L 15414, IL

Case summary by Gary Hutter, Ph.D., P.E.

An employee (plaintiff) of company “A” was “lent out” to a related company “B” to perform regular servicing of waste processing equipment. Company “B” owns, operates, and has a staff of on-site workers and production personal. Company “B” personal acknowledge they had responsibility for the physical safety at the facility where the plaintiff was a type of "loaned employee."

In the course of operation at the plant, a section of fixed (non-removable) railing along an elevated balcony/walkway was replaced with a removable section. The removable section did not include a mid-rail and toe board and was easily removable. There was no practice to check the positioning of this section of railing. This condition existed for some time before the accident. On the night of the accident, the plaintiff claimed he fell on the raised balcony, rolled, and went through the section where the removable rail section was to be positioned. Further the plaintiff claimed the section of railing was missing; and that even if in place, he could have rolled off the platform because of the missing mid-rail and toe board. 

OSHA, ANSI and other custom and practice required this location to have secure railings and a toe board; and that facility operators have responsibility for plant safety. Portion of trial testimony:

“Q. Why is it not safe?

A. It would be rated per OSHA as unreasonably dangerous. It would be rated per the ANSI standards as unreasonably dangerous, and from our own industrial and maybe the jurors'; custom and experience, I believe it would be rated unreasonably dangerous, because it doesn't have those mandatory features of an intermediate rail and a toeboard. In this case, a person, if they slipped, if they had a heart attack and collapsed and rolled in any way, if someone pushed them, bumped into them…”

After two trials (first a miss-trial) the jury found in favor of the plaintiff.

Torrey vs. The Coleman Company, Inc.

Case summary by Mark Stageberg

"What should have been an enjoyable hunting trip to a Colorado Mountain cabin by a father and son turned into a deadly tragedy. Mark Torrey, age 52, and his 26 year old son Christopher, died on the evening of September 22, 2006, from carbon monoxide poisoning while using a Focus 15 propane heater manufactured and sold by the Coleman Company. Upon returning cold and wet from the day of hunting, Mark and Chris fixed and ate a supper and sat near the Coleman heater to dry their clothes and warm up. When the men did not return as planned Sunday evening, Mark's wife, Gail, initiated a search by friends and the authorities. Mark was found dead slumped over in a chair before the heater and Chris was dead in his sleeping bag. In the product liability lawsuit that followed, the Coleman Company presented the quite ridiculous defense that it was not the heater but a wood burning stove used to cook supper that filled the cabin with the carbon monoxide. As in past cases, experts, Robert Engberg and Gary Hutter, Ph.D. tested the heater and provided the expert testimony against Coleman. After eight days of trial before Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch, a conservative Colorado jury found Coleman negligent but ruled that the heater was not defective. After deducing the jury's findings of negligence on Mark and Christopher, the net damage award for the plaintiffs was $851,000."

Brengman vs. The Coleman Company, Inc.

Linquist vs Heim, LP, Defendant

Successfully Represented by Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, PLLC

Name                                  Phone                                  Fax                                       E-Mail
Paul R. Robinson             1 412 261 6600               1 412 471 2754
Office    Erie
Filed       8/31/2004
Jury Demand       Both
Demand               $0
Nature of Suit     365 - Personal Injury: Product Liability
Cause    Section 28 U.S.C. § 1332 Diversity-Personal Injury
Jurisdiction          Diversity
Disposition          Dismissed - Settled
County  Erie
Terminated         8/10/2007
Origin    2
Reopened            None
Lead Case            None
Related Case
Other Court Case              None
Def Custody Status
Flag        CLOSED