Cottrell suit settles after blame reassigned

Steve Korris Feb. 28, 2007, 2:09pm

Brian Wendler settled a truck driver's suit against Georgia trailer maker Cottrell Inc., after Cottrell argued that someone else made the chain that failed and caused the trucker's accident.

Wendler moved Jan. 23 to dismiss Cottrell and eight other defendants from a suit he filed for David McGill in 2004.

The motion did not disclose terms of the settlement except to declare that each party would bear its own costs.

Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack signed an order Jan. 30, dismissing the suit.

Wendler has filed many personal injury suits for truckers who hauled cars for Cassens & Sons of Edwardsville.

Each suit blames Cassens, Cottrell and other defendants for injuries that drivers suffered while tying vehicles down to auto trailers.

Wendler filed McGill's suit in 2004. McGill claimed a chain broke while he secured a Honda Accord to a Cottrell truck.

Wendler sued Cassens & Sons, Cassens Corporation, Jeff Cassens, Cottrell and three Honda Motor companies.

He also sued the chain maker, Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

Although Cottrell did not make the chain, Wendler asserted a claim against Cottrell for its history of ignoring safety concerns.

At a hearing in November, Wendler asked Stack for leave to amend the complaint in order to seek punitive damages from Cottrell.

That sparked a fiery response from Cottrell attorney Amy Lorenz-Moser, of Bryan Cave in St. Louis.

She wrote in a Dec. 14 response to Wendler's motion that the chain was brand new and had been used twice.

She wrote that the chain replaced an original Cottrell chain that secured thousands of loads for seven years.

"Plaintiff is thus trying to hold Cottrell responsible for punitive damages because a chain, which Cottrell did not sell, design or manufacture, broke during its first week of use…," Lorenz-Moser wrote.

"This is like trying to hold the manufacturer of a 1995 vehicle responsible for punitive damages for a replacement tire that failed in 2002 one week after it was mounted on the car," she wrote.

"The facts to date cannot even establish liability as to Cottrell, let alone a cause for punitive damages."

Lorenz-Moser ripped Wendler's expert, Linda Weseman, declaring her work a sham that exposed her as a mere parrot.

She wrote that Weseman read outdated reports by third parties involving methods of other car haulers and regurgitated them to the court.

"There is no evidence that Ms. Weseman has considered in any meaningful way the facts of Mr. McGill's alleged accident or the circumstances under which the alleged accident occurred," Lorenz-Moser wrote.

She wrote that Weseman admitted that improvements in Cottrell equipment have consistently reduced injuries.

She wrote that McGill referred to other injuries involving Cottrell trailers but did not demonstrate any similarity between those accidents and his.

Six weeks later the case went away.

The settlement covered not only Cottrell but also Cassens, Honda and chain maker Columbus McKinnon.

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Bryan Cave
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St. Louis, MO 63102

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