Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hearing on manufacturer's motion to dismiss set in suit alleging faulty boom lift

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Apr 11, 2017

A motion hearing has been set for next month regarding a manufacturer’s motion to dismiss a suit alleging two people were seriously injured when an aerial boom lift collapsed.

Sentry Roofing Inc. filed the complaint on Oct. 28 against Bil-Jax Inc., Airworx Construction Equipment & Supply LLC and Weise USA Inc.

In its complaint, Sentry Roofing alleges two of its employees were seriously injured when an aerial boom lift they were using collapsed, causing them to fall 15 feet to the ground.

As a result of the employees’ injuries, the plaintiff alleges it sustained damages including an insurance premium increase, loss of business, a decrease in production and increased labor costs and selling prices.

Sentry Roofing alleges Bil-Jax defectively designed and manufactured the subject boom lift, Airworx negligently sold the boom lift, and Airworx and Weise failed to perform proper routine inspections and maintenance.

Bil-Jax filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on Jan. 26 through attorneys Erick VanDorn and Erik Lewis of Belleville.

The defendant argues that counts I and II, which allege strict liability and negligence, are barred by the economic-loss doctrine, which allegedly provides that “a product liability plaintiff ‘cannot recover for solely economic loss under the tort theories of strict liability, negligence, or innocent misrepresentation.’”

“To the extent Plaintiff argues that its allegation of a loss of equipment valued at $25,000 brings its Complaint within the property damage exception to the economic-loss doctrine, Illinois courts have consistently held that the property damage must be to ‘other property,’ not the defective product at issue,” the motion states.

Bil-Jax further argues that count III, which makes a claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, fails because the count also seeks solely economic losses. The defendant explains that the plaintiff is not in privity with Bil-Jax, which is required for recovery of economic loss under a warranty theory.

“Here, Plaintiff affirmatively pleaded that it ‘purchased the aerial boom lift at issue from Defendant Airworx,’” the motion states. “Because Plaintiff did not purchase the aerial boom lift from Bil-Jax (the manufacturer), it has no contractual relationship with Bil-Jax.”

The defendant also included a motion to transfer the case based on forum non conveniens, arguing that the case has no significant factual connection to St. Clair County.

Wiese filed a joinder to Bil-Jax’s motion to transfer on March 8 through attorneys Scott Pfeiffer and Daniel Cray of Cray Huber Horstman Heil & vanAusdal LLC in Chicago.

Associate Judge Chris Kolker scheduled a motion hearing for the motion to transfer on May 2 at 9 a.m.

Wiese answered the complaint on Jan. 12, arguing that any alleged damages were not caused by any direct or indirect act or omission by the defendant.

It also argues that Sentry Roofing had a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care for the safety of its employees.

Wiese alleges Sentry Roofing failed to initiate and maintain programs providing for frequent and regular inspections, failed to instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and regulations applicable to the environment, failed to require employees to wear a body belt with lanyard attached to the boom or basket while working from an aerial lift, failed to ensure that load limits were not exceeded, failed to ensure use of fall protection, failed to ensure the covers on the skylights were capable of supporting at least twice the weight of the employees and failed to ensure that employees exposed to fall hazards were trained by a competent person.

AirWorx answered the complaint on Jan. 12 through attorneys Mark Wolfe and Rhani Elrahman of Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP in Chicago.

The defendant argues that the plaintiff’s failure to use due care and misuse of the aerial boom lift caused the alleged damages.

The plaintiff is represented by Gary Snodgrass and J. Phillip Bryant of Pitzer Snodgrass PC in St. Louis and Thomas Keefe Jr. of Keefe, Keefe & Unsell PC in Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 16-L-576

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Organizations in this Story

Cray Huber Horstman Heil and VanAusdal LLC Keefe & Keefe, P.C. Pitzer and Snodgrass, P.C. St. Clair County Circuit Court