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Moore v. Krause Mfg. Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

November 30, 2018

KRAUSE MFG. CO., INC., et al., Defendants.

          McVAN & WEIDENBURNER By: Brian P. McVan, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiffs

          McCARTER & ENGLISH, LLP By: Kenneth R. Meyer, Esq.; Ryan A. Richman, Esq.; Steve H. Del Mauro, Esq. Counsel for Defendant Terex Corporation

          OPINION [DKT. NOS. 39, 40]


         Plaintiff William Moore (“Plaintiff”) brought this action against Defendant Terex Corporation (“Defendant” or “Terex”) under New Jersey's Products Liability Act (the “PLA”). N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2');">2A:58C-1 et seq. Plaintiff alleges that he sustained injuries when he fell from a hydraulic lift manufactured by Defendant, which Plaintiff contends lacked proper warnings and was defectively designed. Plaintiff's wife, Joann Moore (together with her husband, “Plaintiffs”), also asserts a claim for loss of consortium. Defendant now moves to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's expert, Dennis Eckstine [Dkt. No. 39], and for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 40].[1" name="FN1" id="FN1">1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant both Defendant's motion to exclude Plaintiff's expert's testimony and the motion for summary judgment.


         A. The Krause Hydraulic Elevator Model R-68

         The instant action stems from a serious workplace accident wherein Plaintiff William Moore sustained serious injuries to both legs while using a product known as the Krause Hydraulic Elevator Model R-68 (the “R-68”). The R-68 is a hydraulic lift mechanism that can be attached to a forklift by sliding the forks through the base of the R-68. See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (the “MSJ”)[Dkt. No. 40-2');">2], 1');">p.1. After attaching the R-68 to a forklift, the forklift operator can elevate the R-68 by raising the forks and the R-68 operator can further elevate the bucket through controls in the R-68 bucket itself. Id.

         During discovery, the parties produced evidence that Krause Manufacturing Company (“Krause”) began manufacturing the R-68 model in the mid-1960s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. See Defendant's Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment (the “SUMF”) [Dkt. No. 40-1], at ¶ 51; see also Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pls.' MSJ Opp.”)[Dkt. 46], p. 1.[2');">2" name="FN2');">2" id="FN2');">2">2');">2] Defendant provided testimony suggesting that no R-68 models have been manufactured in at least 50 years, as the R-68 stopped being produced prior to 1978. SUMF, at ¶¶ 51-55. Although the entity formerly known as “Krause” no longer exists, it appears that Krause, through a series of sales and mergers, was ultimately subsumed by Terex Aerials, Inc., a wholly owned (albeit inactive) subsidiary of Terex Corporation, the Defendant in this matter.[3]

         B. Plaintiff's Accident and Complaint

          Since 2');">2000, Plaintiff William Moore has been employed by Micro-Tek, Inc., in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, as an extruder operator and mill operator, also performing other minor maintenance as necessary. SUMF, at ¶ 2');">2. Micro-Tek owned an R-68, which the company's employees, including Plaintiff, used in conjunction with a Hyster forklift to perform various jobs, such as changing light bulbs and fixtures in the factory, running cables for video cameras outside the factory, accessing the facility's roof for repairs, and trimming trees. Id., at ¶¶ 3-4, 2');">22');">2. Prior to his accident, Plaintiff had safely operated the R-68 and the forklift on numerous occasions. Id., at ¶¶ 14-15.

         On January 17, 2');">2014, after completing repairs to the roof of Micro-Tek's building, Plaintiff attempted to descend from the roof in the bucket of the R-68, with the assistance of MicroTek's in-house mechanic, Paul Havir, who was operating the forklift on the ground. Id., at ¶¶ 2');">29-31. Unfortunately, when Mr. Havir backed up the forklift, the R-68 caught on the edge of the building, causing the mechanism to become dislodged and slide off the forks of the forklift. Id., at ¶ 32');">2. The R-68 detached from the forklift and fell towards the ground, seriously injuring the Plaintiff. As a result of the fall, Plaintiff sustained multiple ankle and leg fractures to both of his legs that required surgery. Id., at ¶¶ 32');">2-37.

         Plaintiffs commenced this action on November 17, 2');">2015 and filed the operative Second Amended Complaint on February 2');">24, 2');">2016 (the “Complaint”)[Dkt. No. 19]. Plaintiff William Moore contends that as the sole owner of the ultimate successor entity to Krause, Terex Corporation is responsible for his injuries under the PLA, for allegedly failing to warn and defectively designing the R-68. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the R-68 should have (1) contained explicit warnings about the risk that the R-68 could become dislodged from the forklift, and (2');">2) been designed with a mechanism to safely secure the base of the R-68 to the forklift. Plaintiff Joann Moore also asserts a claim loss of consortium as a result of the injuries to her husband.

         C. The History of Micro-Tek's R-68

         At his deposition, Plaintiff William Moore testified that he did not know when or from where Micro-Tek acquired its R-68, but that Micro-Tek already owned it when he began working for the company in 2');">2000. SUMF, at ¶ 5. Mr. Havir testified that he was “70 percent certain” that Micro-Tek acquired the R-68, along with the Hyster forklift, from McKean Machinery Sales in 1996. Id., at ¶ 6. The testimony regarding the condition of the R-68 when Micro-Tek's acquired the unit suggests that it had been subjected to extensive wear and tear. According to Mr. Havir, the R-68 was non-operational when Micro-Tek acquired it, as there was no battery and no electrical switch to adjust the height of the platform. Id., at ¶ 8. Although a brochure for the R-68 from the early 1970s ...

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