A recent Philadelphia County verdict suggests that Philadelphia’s love of Oreos trumps its love of plaintiffs. A jury in Philadelphia County – a typically plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction – recently returned a defense verdict in favor of three companies that manufactured and supplied the Oreo production line equipment at the Kraft Factory formerly located in Northeast Philadelphia.
<strong> </strong>On August 19, 2011, plaintiff, a Kraft employee, crawled underneath a guardrail to clean residue from the conveyor belt’s moving rollers. While the plaintiff was on his hands and knees, his shirt got caught in the moving rollers. He attempted to free his shirt with his right arm, which then got caught in the moving rollers. Plaintiff sustained a crush injury, fractured wrist, and fractured humerus. He claimed he permanently lost use of his right arm.
In <a href="http://www.thelegalintelligencer.com/id=1202751460285/OreoCleaning-Accident-Results-in-Defense-Verdict"><em>O'Gorman v. Rockwell Automation, Inc., Systemax Technical Services, Inc., and Rumsey Electric Co</em></a>., plaintiff claimed the defendants did not, but should have warned end users that the free-spinning roller required safety guarding. The plaintiff also claimed that a guard rail was missing from the equipment at the Kraft facility.
<strong> </strong>Defendants viewed this as an assumption of risk case. In support of this theory, defendants argued that the plaintiff’s actions violated Kraft policies and procedures in that he should not have attempted to clean the equipment while it was in operation. Defendants further argued that there was no evidence of a defect on the Oreo production line and that plaintiff could not establish that defendants or breached any duty.
Plaintiff initially demanded $8 million, but ended up with a defense verdict.
Perhaps the jury was persuaded by plaintiff’s own negligence, or by the defendants’ remote role in respect of the Oreo conveyor belt operation. Regardless, this case demonstrates that there can be major pay off to taking a case all the way to verdict, even when there is a significant injury, and even when there are numerous defendants with deep pockets.
Thanks to Rachel Freedman for her contribution to this post.