Products Liability – Defective Fork Lift Truck Causes Crushing Injury and Death

A Bethel Park family suffered a horrific tragedy when their only son was crushed to death by an overturned forklift truck. Their son, 23 years old and a Bethel Park High School and University of Pittsburgh graduate, was working for 84 Lumber at their corporate headquarters in Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania. New to the job, their son was moving materials with a forklift truck when the forklift became unstable and began to overturn on its side. Reacting to the impending rollover, their son attempted to exit the driver's compartment or cab. However, he was caught by the cab's overhead guard, pulled to the ground and pinned underneath the forklift truck. Tragically, the position and weight of the truck crushed and ultimately asphyxiated our client.

The family contacted our law firm inquiring if there were any death benefits or claims that could be pursued related to their son's employment at 84 Lumber. While Pennsylvania' Workers' Compensation Act specifically bars direct negligence claims of employees against their employers, we recognized that the family may have a claim against the manufacturer of the forklift truck.

Our investigation determined that the forklift truck was an older model manufactured by a Japanese company. While other companies in the forklift industry had incorporated multiple safety features designed to keep drivers within the driver's compartment and cab in the event of a rollover, this forklift possessed none of these features. There were no seatbelts, wing backed seats, arm bars, roll cages or warning instructions designed to keep the driver in the safest place, within the compartment or cage, during a rollover. We retained an engineering expert who was able to establish that had these features existed and our client restrained properly, our client would have likely suffered only bruises, or at most broken bones, from the rollover. In other words, he suffered an unnecessary and preventable death.

We filed a wrongful death and survival claim lawsuit in Allegheny County. On the day trial was to begin, the case was settled for an excess of a million dollars.