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Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds Sufficient Evidence to Support $5.9 Million Punitive Damages Award Against Equipment Rental Company – Williamson-Green v. Equipment 4 Rent, Inc.

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Product liability cases can arise in a wide array of situations, including on-the-job accidents. Recently, the Massachusetts Appeals Court was called upon to decide a case in which an allegedly defective product caused the death of a man who was inspecting a roof.

Although the court’s opinion did not go into detail regarding whether the man had also filed a workers’ compensation claim, it is sometimes possible to pursue both workers’ compensation benefits and damages in tort against a negligent third party. If the tort lawsuit is successful, the workers’ compensation carrier may be entitled to repayment of certain benefits under the law of subrogation.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Williamson-Green v. Equipment 4 Rent, Inc., the plaintiff was a widow whose husband was killed when a Model A125J articulating boom lift (upon which he was perched in order to inspect a roof) tipped over and crashed into a building. The widow sued both the manufacturer of the boom lift and the equipment rental company that owned it.

A jury trial resulted in a verdict in the widow’s favor, awarding her $3,692,657.40 in compensatory damages against the two defendants and an additional $5,900,000 in punitive damages solely against the rental company. The trial judge denied the rental company’s motions for a directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, or a remittitur. The rental company appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s award of punitive damages. (The manufacturer did not appeal.)

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The court affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that there were facts from which the jury could have determined that the rental company had engaged in gross negligence. Thus, there was sufficient evidence to support the punitive damages award ordered by the jury. In so holding, the court noted that the jury would have been warranted in concluding that the rental company’s combined failures in training, maintenance, and inspection – along with the fact that it misinformed the operator that the boom was ready to use – resulted in a “manifestly smaller” amount of care than a person or business exercising ordinary care would have exercised under the circumstances. Also, the court observed that the rental company’s failure to timely discover a problem with a proximity sensor would have been grounds for a finding of palpable negligence over an appreciable time period.

To Talk to an Assertive Cape Cod Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been hurt by the negligence of a product manufacturer, business owner, motorist, or other careless party, you need sound advice concerning your legal options. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Massachusetts injury and wrongful death attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at (888) 262-6664. We have offices in both Hyannis and Plymouth, from which we serve clients throughout the Cape Cod area as well as elsewhere in Massachusetts. You should not delay in seeking legal advice about your case, since the statute of limitation, the statute of repose, and certain notice requirements limit the time during which an injured person or the family of a person killed in a fatal accident may seek recourse in a court of law.

Related Blog Posts:

Workers’ Compensation Insurer Was Not Entitled to Subrogation of Pain and Suffering Award in Worker’s Claim Against Third-Party Tortfeasor – DiCarlo v. Suffolk Construction Co.

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