A truck driver who was injured while unloading his trailer filed a product liability and personal injury complaint against Cottrell Inc. in St. Clair County Circuit Court May 9, alleging the rig was defective and not reasonably safe.

Michael Gray claims he was working for his employer in Centreville on March 6, 2007, when he sustained severe and permanent injuries to his back while exerting required and foreseeable force and pressure on the skid.

According to the complaint, Gray was employed by Jack Cooper Transport Company as a car hauler.

Gray claims he was injured during the operation of the rear loading skid that was manufactured by Cottrell.

He claims his rig was defective and not reasonably safe in one or more of the following ways in that the rig:

  • Lacked reasonably safe rear loading skids, brackets, housings and runners;

  • Was supplied with rear loading skids incapable of withstanding the stress and/or deformation inherent in the use of the rig;

  • Lacked adequate warnings to sufficiently warn him and others that the skids, brackets, housings and runners supplied with the rig would subject users to an unreasonable risk of injury;

  • Lacked adequate warnings to sufficiently warn him and others of the defects;

  • The rear loading skids were not accompanied by a full hydraulic deployment system enclosed housing, proper rollers, adequate housing brackets, non-manual system and/or required the use of excessive force; and

  • The rear loading skids and their housing/brackets/runners were prone to collect road debris and became bent through normal and foreseeable use.

    Gray also claims Cottrell negligently failed to review and analyze available injury records and industry reports that were available to them, failed to test the rigs to ascertain whether the rear loading skids and their housings were reasonably safe and failed to modify the design when they knew or should have known that the skids were causing excessive numbers of injuries to users.

    He further claims Cottrell negligently failed to supply the rigs with fully hydraulic deployment systems, failed to test or design alternative skid systems and failed to ascertain from drivers who regularly use Cottrell trailers what safety and malfunction concerns are associated with manual skids.

    "The Defendant knew of or consciously disregarded many reports of injuries involving drivers who had become injured while using manual rear loading skids on trailers similar to the trailer in issue," the complaint states.

    "Defendant was further aware of many industry reports, engineer reports, ergonomic reports, lawsuits, meeting minutes, safety alerts and testimony of drivers which reported safety problems and concerns associated with manual rear skids and deformations problems associated with such design."

    Gray claims Cottrell ignored all of the data available to them and failed to share the information with their customers and design engineers.

    "Defendant knew that at least one judge had ruled there existed sufficient evidence to warrant a punitive damages claim under Illinois law," the complaint states.

    "The Defendant had knowledge and available documentation of multiple injuries to drivers including rear loading skid injuries yet continued to withhold, conceal and ignore this data in its quest to increase profits, promote sales and ignore design defects," the complaint also states.

    "Defendant refused to review the injury records it had available from its customers but, instead, hired an outside litigation expert for such purpose so defendant could continue to disavow knowledge of the contents of such records."

    Gray claims his injuries have caused and will continue to cause him to suffer pain and mental anguish, incur medical expenses, lose wages and suffer permanent disfigurement.

    He is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $200,000 and exemplary damages in excess of $50,000.

    "Defendant chose to place profits above safety," the complaint states.

    "Defendant knew safer designs existed and were warranted."

    Gray's wife, Patty Gray, also is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 alleging she is dependant on Gray for support and services but alleges his injuries have deprived her of his support and services.

    The Grays are represented by Brian Wendler of Edwardsville.

    08 L 223 (20th Circuit)

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