A state appeals court has upheld a jury verdict against a maker of hydraulic dump-beds used on trucks. In May, a jury in Stark County, Ohio awarded $6 million to the widow of Robert Ronske, who was killed in 2002 when the elevated bed of his truck silently lowered and pinned him against the frame.
Mr. Ronske had been doing maintenance when his body triggered a control valve on the outside of his 1978 Ford truck, causing the bed to lower in four seconds.
Heil Co. was accused of making a defective product because the dump-bed kit didn’t include a safety device, one that cost less than $7. Heil also failed to warn distributors and consumers about the defect. The safety device had been in use since the 1940s, but Heil did not use it in the design.
Heil argued Mr. Ronske failed to followed proper safety protocol while doing maintenance by not bracing the bed. The company appealed to the 5th District Court of Appeals, saying the evidence didn’t support the verdict. The defendant also said the conduct of plaintiff’s lawyers prevented a fair trial.
A three-judge panel upheld the judgment and said the trial judge conducted the trial with impartiality and professionalism.
As for alleged misconduct by the lawyers, the panel noted that lawyers representing the Heil Co. didn’t object during the trial to many of the incidents they are now raising for the first time on appeal.
That appears to be one such incident. In any event, Heil Co. still can appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Hopefully, the verdict will stand.