Three motions to dismiss liability and negligence in a case involving a man who lost his arm using an aerial device in an electrical construction project have been rejected by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
The case involves plaintiff Eric Duclos, who filed a six-count civil complaint against equipment manufacturer Altec Industries Inc., Altec Inc. and auctioneer J.J. Kane Associates Inc. in October 2016 after he was shocked and severely burned and lost his right arm using an articulating overcenter aerial device allegedly purchased from J.J. Kane by his employer Big D Electric Inc. on Nov. 20, 2008.
In his suit, Duclos claimed “negligent/careless design and manufacturing, negligent/careless marketing and sale, negligent acts or omission and strict liability” against the defendants named. He has requested damages in excess of $75,000 plus additional costs in the suit.
Altec, which manufactured the aerial device in question, filed for a dismissal as a party to the case as it wasn’t named in amended complaints filed by the plaintiff. It argued that Cox v. Kisro comes into play with the new complaints, where Altec wasn’t named, as these supersede the original claim, where Altec was named.
While District Judge David Herndon did consider the argument provided by Altec, it did not adopt the reasoning, as it found the plaintiff did include Altec in other amended complaints. Further, if Altec was removed from the complaint, under Foxcraft Townhome Owners Ass’n v. Hoffman Rosener Corp., it waives its right to object to the complaint filed if it is no longer a party to the suit. The court declined the argument by Altec and the claims against them stand.
Altec Inc. and Altec Industries Inc. also moved to have the strict liability counts dismissed by arguing that the two companies are separate and one should be dropped from the suit under Main Bank of Chi. v. Baker, that treats the identity of one corporation as the alter ego of the other. Herndon found that Altec Inc. and Altec Industries Inc. didn’t prove this reasoning and the liability counts would stand.
J.J. Kane also moved for dismissal of the strict liability claim as it said it was the auctioneer and not the seller of the equipment. It claimed that it could not be held liable for injuries caused by an alleged defective product or its marketing as it has no cause to the effects of the accident.
In examining this reasoning, Herndon held that Illinois has strict regulations about product liability stemming back to the individual that receives economic benefit from the product that is deemed unsafe. He held that being an auctioneer doesn’t prevent it from assuming liability in the suit as it was the one that gained monetarily from the purchase, regardless if it was the manufacturer of the product or a direct seller.
“J.J. Kane’s self-proclaimed status of 'auctioneer' is neither here nor there in respect to strict product liability in the state of Illinois,” Herndon wrote.
He upheld the liability count against J.J. Kane, in effect denying all three dismissal motions placed before it by the defendants in the case.