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Case Example: When a Defective Product Causes a Construction Accident

Posted on October 15, 2017

Not all cases are clear cut, and Straub vs. Cherne Industries is one such example. In 2002, a jury awarded a $4 million verdict to Douglas Straub, a construction worker injured on the job, and $500,000 to his wife. Then, the case was appealed and reversed. Finally, on remand, the verdict was allowed to stand. The main issue? Was the plaintiff injured due to negligence or a defective product?

Straub, a construction worker, was installing sewer pipe at a job site in Chester County, using a 36-inch inflatable Muni-ball Pillow Plug manufactured by Cherne, a commercial plumbing product manufacturer. The plug was outfitted with a pressure gauge that indicated the level of inflation. Too little air would prevent the plug from adequately sealing the pipe, and too much air might cause it to explode. The one-month-old plug Straub was using was not working and gave no warning when exploded, breaking bones in his face and arms, causing herniated discs, serious knee injuries and closed-head injuries.

The question at hand was whether Cherne was negligent in failing to test the product in the field, or was the product defective? Here’s how it played out:

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