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Gaddy v. Terex Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

April 26, 2017

TEREX CORPORATION, et al. Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Terex Corporation (“Terex Corp.), Terex South Dakota, Inc. (“Terex SD”), and Terex Utilities, Inc.'s (“Terex Utilities”) (collectively, “Terex” or the “Terex Defendants”) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding Plaintiff's Claims [317] (“Motion for Summary Judgment”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         This is a products liability action stemming from the failure of a 2002 Terex Hi-Ranger XT 60/70 boom, Serial No. 2021020554 (the “Subject Boom Truck”), an aerial lift device. Terex XT aerial devices are commonly utilized by tree trimming companies. The Subject Boom Truck consisted of a lower boom, upper boom, and bucket, as depicted in the following diagram:

         (IMAGE OMITTED)

         On April 9, 2014, Plaintiff Jeffrey Gaddy (“Plaintiff”) was in the bucket of the Subject Boom Truck when the lower boom stub fractured, causing Plaintiff to fall to the ground. Plaintiff suffered spinal injuries resulting in paraplegia. Plaintiff claims Terex negligently manufactured and designed the Subject Boom Truck, and that it failed to warn him of certain dangers.

         1. Design

         The Subject Boom Truck was part of Terex SD's XT aerial device line, which consisted of XT52, XT55, XT58, and XT60 aerial lifts. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [317.2] (“DSMF”) ¶7; Pl.'s Resp. [340.1] (“R-DSMF”) ¶ 7). The line, beginning with the XT52, was first designed by Terex S.D. in 1996. The number following the XT designation represents the maximum height that the bucket platform can reach when fully extended. The Subject Boom Truck was an XT60, which was originally designed in 1999. (DSMF ¶5; R-DSMF ¶ 5).

         a) ANSI Standard

         The American National Standards Institute (“ANSI”) sets forth standards for the design of vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating aerial devices, like the Subject Boom Truck. (DSMF ¶8; R-DSMF ¶ 8). Section 4 of ANSI A92.2 (2001) (the “ANSI Standard”) sets forth the design requirements that apply to the Subject Boom Truck, including structural safety factors. (See DSMF ¶ 9; R-DSMF ¶ 9). Regarding the Subject Boom Truck's structural safety factors, the ANSI Standard provides that “[t]he calculated design stress shall be based on the combined rate load capacity and weight of the support structure. For ductile materials, the design stress shall not be more than 50% of the minimum yield strength of the material.” (DSMF ¶ 10; R-DSMF ¶ 10). Thus, the steel boom of the Subject Boom Truck, a ductile material, needs to meet a safety factor of 2.0 to comply with the ANSI Standard. (See id.).[1]

         The standard further requires that, in designing the aerial device, a manufacturer must consider “stress concentrations, dynamic loadings, and operation of the device at ¶ 5 degree slope.” (DSMF ¶ 11; R-DSMF ¶ 11). The ANSI Standard does not provide any specific direction as to how these three factors should be considered, allowing manufacturers to exercise their discretion in considering them. (DSMF ¶¶15-16; R-DSMF ¶¶ 15-16).

         Terex claims that the calculated design safety factors for the upper and lower booms of the Subject Boom Truck exceeded the 2.0 safety factor in the ANSI Standard. (DSMF ¶13). Specifically, for the specified minimum yield strength of 70, 000 psi (pounds per square inch), Terex claims the lower boom stub where the Subject Boom Truck failed had a calculated design safety factor of 4.0. (Id.). Plaintiff contends these figures are estimated calculated stresses, and that Terex knew, pre-production, that its actual stress numbers far exceeded those estimations. Plaintiff argues that, had Terex calculated safety factors based on the actual stresses in its design, its boom would, by a wide margin, have failed to have a 2.0 safety factor. (See R-DSMF ¶ 13).

         At the time the Subject Boom Truck was designed, Terex SD's calculated design measurements were independently verified by Terex SD's Director of Engineering, Jon Promersberger, to ensure their accuracy. (DSMF ¶ 20; R-DSMF ¶ 20). Plaintiff's expert, Nathan Morrill, P.E., stated that any design that meets a calculated design safety factor of 2.75 adequately considers the factors set forth in the ANSI Standard and otherwise complies with the ANSI Standard requirements. (DSMF ¶¶ 18, 21; R-DSMF ¶¶18, 21).

         b) Strain Gage Testing and Internal Standards

         In 1999, as part of its analysis and verification of the XT60 design, Terex S.D. retained All Test & Inspection, Inc. (“All Test”) to conduct strain gauge tests on the Subject Boom. (DSMF ¶¶ 21-22, R-DSMF ¶¶ 21-22; see also Pl.'s Statement of Additional Material Facts [349] (“PSAF”) ¶¶ 25, 29, 45-46).[2] Strain gauge testing measures how much a material changes shape when a force is applied on the object, and it is utilized to determine measured, or actual, stresses in a design. (DSMF ¶ 22; R-DSMF ¶ 22; PSAF ¶ 30).

         Plaintiff contends that the strain gauge testing on the XT60 boom showed that Terex's theoretical calculations did not adequately account for the actual stresses in the boom. Although the hand-calculated theoretical stress in the boom failure area, an area of stress concentration, was 17, 625 psi, (PSAF ¶ 40; Defs.' Resp. to PSAF [349] R-PSAF ¶ 40), All Test's strain gauge testing showed that the stress in that area was actually 35, 300 psi, (PSAF ¶ 41; R-PSAF ¶ 41).

         Plaintiff contends that Terex's internal design safety standard required that its booms meet a 2.0 safety factor based on the actual, rather than calculated, stresses. (PSAF ¶ 44). Terex argues that it had an internal safety factor of 2.75 for calculated stress, which it claims accounted for measured stresses, dynamic loading, and a 5 degree slope. (R-PSAF ¶ 44).

         Plaintiff points to several of All Test's reports to Terex S.D. regarding strain gage testing of multiple previous boom models. The reports state that the object of the tests was to test for compliance with the ANSI Standard, and that the “structural safety factor used to evaluate the stress levels was 50% of the minimum material yield strength, ” that is, a 2.0 safety factor. The test reports stated that certain “areas do not meet the requirements called for in [the ANSI Standard].” (PSAF ¶¶ 21-24). Plaintiff presents evidence that, because of these reports, Terex redesigned the failing areas of these booms and retested them later. (PSAF ¶¶ 21-23). A Terex S.D. internal report states that “[m]easured stresses should not exceed 50% of the material's yield stress.” (PSAF ¶ 24). Terex S.D. presents evidence that this statement appears under the header “Objective” because it was Terex SD's goal to “go above and beyond what is required by ANSI.” ([318.27] at 134:21-135:11).

         2. Manufacture

         The Subject Boom Truck was manufactured in September 2002. (DSMF ¶ 31; R-DSMF ¶ 31). The manufacturing process begins with the purchase of component parts, each of which is inspected for compliance with the purchase order and part number. (DSMF ¶¶ 34, 36-37; R-DSMF ¶¶ 34, 36-37). The component parts are welded at Terex SD's plant in Huron, South Dakota, (“Huron Plant”), then delivered to Terex SD's plant in Watertown, South Dakota (“Watertown Plant”) for final assembly. (DSMF ¶¶ 36, 42; R-DSMF ¶¶ 36, 42). Following assembly, Terex S.D. conducted a final inspection, which included load testing to twice the rated load limit of the Subject Boom Truck. (DSMF ¶ 44; R-DSMF ¶ 44). On or about October 4, 2002, the Subject Boom Truck was certified compliant. (DSMF ¶¶ 43-44; R-DSMF ¶¶ 43-44).

         One of the main structural components of the lower boom stub where the subject failure occurred was a lower boom tube, identified as part no. 444195. This boom tube was designed as a hollow rectangular steel beam with a length of 113 inches, and was to be manufactured of steel with a minimum yield strength of 70, 000 psi. (DSMF ¶¶ 32-33; R-DSMF ¶¶ 32-33). At the time the Subject Boom Truck was manufactured, Terex S.D. ordered part no. 444195 from Defendant Joseph T. Ryerson & Son, Inc. (“Ryerson”). (DSMF ¶ 34; R-DSMF ¶ 34). Each purchase order submitted to Ryerson specified that part no. 444195 was to be cut to a length of 113 inches and was to consist of steel with a minimum yield strength of 70, 000 psi. (DSMF ¶ 35; R-DSMF ¶ 35). Part no. 444195 was the only component on the Subject Boom Truck ...

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