LRSI&F Partner Scott B. Smith has secured a substantial confidential settlement for an injured firm client on the third day of a contested trial. Smith brought the products liability action against a golf cart manufacturer and a South Florida private country club following a house fire that occurred at the client’s house on October 2, 2010. On that date, the client had played golf earlier in the day and later parked his golf cart in his garage plugged into the provided battery charger. While walking his dog and about 20 minutes after he had begun charging his golf cart, the firm client could hear his wife screaming “like no husband should ever hear their wife screaming.” The client ran home frantic to find his house engulfed in flames and smoke. Even much more alarming and concerning was that the client did not see his 4 year old son outside of the house with his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law. As a result, and as to be expected from such a loving father, the firm client ran into the open garage door in search of his son but was immediately confronted by extremely intense heat and thick black smoke. Fortunately, the client’s young son was out of the house, but unfortunately, the firm client, a doctor, suffered burn and extension injuries to his hand, wrist, and forearm.
The fire was investigated by the local city fire department. The chief fire investigator determined that the origin of the fire was in the area of the golf cart. Mr. Smith retained a fire expert competent in NFPA 921 Fire and Explosion Investigations. In addition, Smith retained an electrical engineer and/or physicist as the fire appeared from the onset to be electrical in nature, primarily, if not entirely, caused by an arcing event within the golf cart’s battery charging wiring system or components. The two competent expert witnesses retained by Smith determined that the golf cart was both the origin and the cause of the subject fire and specifically identified faulty wiring in the golf cart’s charging system as the culprit.
This matter was litigated extensively by all involved parties. Not surprisingly, the golf cart manufacturer maintained throughout the litigation and at trial that their product was not defectively designed and not defectively manufactured. Moreover, the golf cart manufacturer contended that the golf cart was neither the cause nor even the origin of the fire. Rather, they contended that the fire was likely started by the electrical branch wiring of the house specifically in the garage and potentially the garage door opener situated directly above the golf cart. The private golf club alleged from the beginning that they did nothing to cause this fire and in no way provided service or maintenance to the golf cart. They contended that all such service was conducted by an outside vendor.
Smith brought the lawsuit against both the golf cart manufacturer and the private club alleging negligence, strict liability, defective design, defective manufacturing and inadequate warnings. Smith’s allegations were based on the fire investigation done by local authorities and by his retained fire and electrical engineering expert witnesses. The products liability action against the golf cart manufacturer alleged both strict liability and negligence regarding the defective design and manufacture of the golf cart. This case was litigated for an extended period of time and very aggressively by all involved parties. More than three (3) dozen depositions were taken in the case in the last several years of both liability and medical witnesses. In addition, significant document exchange occurred as the subject golf cart had thousands of engineering drawings.
The case proceeded to trial in Palm Beach County, Florida on Monday, February 25, 2016 before The Honorable Edward Artau. Following a two day jury selection and a lengthy “Daubert” hearing regarding one of the golf cart manufacturer’s expert witnesses, the case resolved by way of a confidential settlement on the third day of trial.
Scott Smith previously obtained a favorable jury verdict in a fire case involving injury in 2011 in Federal Court in Ft. Pierce, FL. That case involved a refrigerator causing a mobile home to catch fire and cause injury to its owner. That case too was a products liability matter alleging defective design and manufacture. Fire cases can be difficult because the critical fire causing evidence is often severely damaged. Thus, it is very important to secure evidence as soon as possible and properly store it so that further damage is not caused thereto.
In addition to this particular products liability case, Scott Smith also recently resolved a very substantial products liability case with a motor vehicle manufacturer and tire manufacturer following a rollover crash that occurred after a tire suffered a tread and belt separation. Smith handles all types of products liability cases, along with all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases. If you or a loved one have been injured call the law firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath at (561) 655-1990.