Summary Judgment for Equipment Manufacturer in Kentucky Products Liability Lawsuit: Fimbres v. Garlock Equipment Co.

by Mandy Hicks

A recent Kentucky lawsuit demonstrates the importance of obtaining ample evidence before filing a lawsuit. In Fimbres v. Garlock Equipment Co., a roofer was seriously injured when an asphalt kettle manufactured by the defendant exploded. The man apparently suffered significant burns over a large percentage of his body as a result of the explosion. Unfortunately, the injured man died from a prescription pain medication overdose about one month after the workplace accident.

When it was manufactured, the asphalt kettle was equipped with an automatic monitoring device that was designed to keep the kettle from overheating. On the day of the tragic workplace accident, however, the device was not attached to the kettle. A roofing company worker apparently stated that the monitoring device was removed about one year before the explosion due to an equipment malfunction. According to the asphalt manufacturer’s user manual, the self-regulating monitor may be removed as long as the product is manually observed to avoid overheating.

Following the roofer’s death, his mother filed a products liability and wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of the asphalt kettle. According to the plaintiff, the equipment was defectively designed, and the manufacturer failed to properly warn the decedent regarding the dangerous product. The equipment manufacturer responded by filing a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment means the moving party is asking a court to rule that there are no genuine questions of fact in a case and that the party is entitled to a verdict in his or her favor.

After determining that Kentucky law applied to the diversity action, the federal court said state law allows an injured person to bring a products liability action for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. In this case, the plaintiff alleged each of those causes of action against the equipment manufacturer. According to the court, the plaintiff offered no admissible expert testimony regarding the asphalt kettle’s allegedly defective design or the adequacy of the manufacturer’s warnings. Additionally, the court held that her breach of warranty claim failed because privity is an essential element of such a claim in Kentucky, and she offered no evidence that the decedent and the defendant contracted with each other. Since the plaintiff provided the court with insufficient evidence to support her causes of action against the manufacturer, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky entered summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

If you were hurt by a dangerous product in Kentucky, you should discuss your case with a reliable personal injury attorney. Do not hesitate to call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 today. You may also contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Fimbres v. Garlock Equipment Co., Dist. Court, WD Kentucky 2014

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