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$8.8 million award upheld in defective product case

In October of 2004, a young girl lost an arm in a farming accident involving a borrowed piece of farm equipment called a post-hole digger. The owner had modified it by removing its safety shield. The girl's coat pocket got caught on a bolt protruding from the tool, resulting in the loss of her right arm.

This month, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the original ruling made in 2011 that denied summary judgment to the defendants in this case. This means that the girl, now a 25-year-old young woman, will receive the $8.8 million award ordered by the presiding judge in the original trial. The woman will receive one upfront payment of $676,000 and then will receive the remainder of the award in monthly checks that might last as long as 59 years. Responsibility for paying the award will be split among all of the defendants named in the lawsuit.

For the jury, the case boiled down to the removal of the post-hole digger's safety shield, which they found was both inadequate and defective. The man the woman's family had borrowed the tool from is responsible for paying 30 percent of the award, but the jury found the manufacturer, designers and seller were the most responsible due to the defective nature of the product. Because of this, they were ordered to shoulder the bulk of the award amount.

One of the best ways to make sure dangerous and defective products remain out of the reach of consumers, including those in Montana, is by seeking compensation when an injury occurs. This kind of legal action can serve to remind manufacturers that they must take care to make sure their products do not pose the threat of serious injury or death. In this case, a young woman is financially set for life, but she had to pay for the award with one of her arms, a cost that is much too high.

Source: Buffalo News, "Court of Appeals upholds $8.8 million award for lost arm" Thomas Prohaska, Apr. 12, 2014

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