verdicts and settlements
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Date of Settlement:

March 22.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 150200607.

Judge:

Annette M. Rizzo.

Type of Action:

Products liability.

Injuries:

Arm fracture.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Richard M. Jurewicz, Galfand Berger, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Joseph M. Oberlies, Connor, Weber & Oberlies, Paoli.

Plaintiffs Experts:

Harvey Voris, sports/recreation equipment, Huntington Beach, California; Maxwell Stepanuk Jr., orthopedic surgery, Elkins Park.

Defense Experts:

David Glaser, orthopedic surgery, Philadelphia; William Daley III, mechanical, Annapolis, Maryland.

Comment:

On June 26, 2014, plaintiff Gladys Jones, 50, a part-time health care aide, fell and injured her arm while roller skating at a park in Philadelphia. She claimed the “Chicago Skates” brand of skates she used were defective, because the right skate was missing a pivot cup. (A pivot cup is a small, cup-shaped piece of rubber that cushions friction when the skate pivots. It fits between the skate’s plate—the metal piece covering the bottom of the skate—and its trucks—the metal components that hold the wheel axles.)

On June 18, Jones had purchased the skates online from Fingerhut.com, and she received them on June 23. She did not open the packaged skates until the day of the accident. After opening the boxes and taking out the skates, she laced them, stood, and pushed off, and the right rear wheel began to wobble. She lost her balance and fell, fracturing her arm.

Jones sued seller Bluestem Brands (which does business as Fingerhut) and wholesale-distributor National Sporting Goods Corp., alleging claims under a theory of products liability, including manufacturing defect and breach of warranty.

According to Jones’ counsel, corporate designees of both companies admitted in depositions that the failure to sell the roller skates with all component parts was a breach of the express warranty. The designees also conceded that the failure to install a pivot cup component was poor workmanship.

Jones’ expert in recreational sporting equipment opined that the missing pivot cup created instability in the skate and caused Jones’ fall.

Counsel for Bluestern and National Sporting Goods maintained that all roller skates are subjected to strict quality-control inspection standards and that the skates were inspected prior to being sold.

The companies asserted that neither of them manufactured or assembled the skates, which were made by a Chinese-based company.

The companies’ expert in biomechanical engineering opined that the missing pivot cup did not cause Jones to fall, but it was due to her adjusting the large bolt that held in place the plate and the rollers. The bolt was found to be loosened following the accident (Jones denied that she adjusted the tightness of the bolt).

Jones was driven by her mother to an emergency room, where she was examined for an injured left (nondominant) arm and released. Swelling of her arm prevented an X-ray. A couple of days later, an X-ray confirmed a mid-shaft fracture to the left humerus.

About a week later, Jones had open reduction and internal fixation surgery with a screw implanted. Her arm remained immobilized for six weeks, and she had three months of physical therapy. She later developed adhesive capsulitis (extreme stiffness) of her shoulder. No further treatment was rendered, and she sought to recover $16,473.32 in medical costs and $2,065 in past lost wages, having missed approximately five months of work (she worked 15 hours a week).

Jones’ expert in orthopedic surgery causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident, and cleared Jones to work with no restrictions.

Jones alleged that the only limitation she experiences with her arm is when she lifts an overhead object. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

Bluestern and National Sporting Goods’ expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined Jones, conceded her injuries and treatment, and opined that the immobilization of her arm resulted in adhesive capsulitis, resulting in a decreased range of motion.

The parties settled for $287,500, prior to trial. Bluestern and National Sporting Goods shared an insurance policy.

This report is based on information that was provided by the plaintiffs counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to calls seeking comment.