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Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. Secures $21.6M Verdict for Truck Driver and Wife

Last month, Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. Partner Joseph A. Power Jr. and Attorneys Sean M. Houlihan and James Power secured a $21.6 million dollar verdict on behalf of a truck driver and his wife.

Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury after a defectively designed grab handle on his truck broke and caused him to fall. The case involved many disputes about jurisdiction and where the case was to be heard, and was recently featured in an article published by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

About the Case

Our firm’s client, Bennie Wood, had purchased his commercial tractor-trailer in 2002 from a dealership in Texas owned by Navistar International. Though the truck was manufactured in Canada and warranty work performed before Wood purchased the truck was completed in Texas, the case fell under Illinois jurisdiction because Navistar is based in the village of Lisle in DuPage County.

As the lawsuit notes, Wood’s injury occurred while transporting merchandise in his truck from Texas to a Mattel Toy Store in El Segundo, California. When exiting the truck, the vehicle’s driver-side grab handle broke and detached, causing then 59-year-old Wood to fall backwards and hit his head on the ground. As a result, he suffered a traumatic brain injury, hemorrhaging, and other injuries.

In 2009, Joseph A. Power Jr. and his team filed a lawsuit against Navistar Inc. and Navistar Canada Inc. on behalf of both Wood and his wife. The lawsuit alleged strict liability and negligence against the truck manufacturer for designing a handle and fastening system in a way that made it susceptible to corrosion and weakening. It sought economic and non-economic damages suffered by Wood as a result of his injuries, as well as damages for his wife’s loss of consortium.

In response, the defense argued the truck was over 8 years old, had accumulated nearly 1 million miles, and had replacement bolts which didn’t meet the manufacturer’s specifications. They also argued our client should have known the handle was loose and should have repaired it.

The defense also filed several motions pertaining to where the case should be heard, and what state law would apply. In one motion, Navistar attempted to dismiss the case and transfer it to DuPage County, where Navistar had its headquarters. That motion was granted and later reversed by an appeals court, stating the defense failed to show how having the case heard in Cook County was inconvenient. Another motion filed by Navistar to apply Texas law was initially denied and later reversed by the appellate court.

Ultimately, the case was heard in Cook County and tried pursuant to Texas law. The jury sided with our attorneys’ arguments, and ruled Wood was not negligent in contributing to his injuries. They awarded him and his wife $21.6 million in damages.

As Partner Joseph A. Power Jr. told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, “Our firm is pleased to have secured this positive verdict for our clients, and is happy justice prevailed once they had their day in court.”

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