ROCHESTER, N.Y., Nov. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Phillips Lytle LLP, one of the region's best known law firms, announced today the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester, upheld a high-profile products liability verdict against international fitness equipment manufacturer, Cybex International.
In its decision, the Fourth Department judicial panel found Cybex liable for the accident which left Natalie Barnhard, of Cheektowaga, NY a quadriplegic. In making its findings, the panel wrote, "Contrary to the contention of Cybex on its appeal, we conclude that a fair interpretation of the evidence supports the jury's verdict that Cybex was negligent and that its negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's injuries."
"On the liability side, the decision rejected each and every attack that was made by Cybex. The panel affirmed that the jury correctly recognized the substantial evidence we brought forth regarding the role of Cybex in this tragic accident," said Kevin English, a partner in Phillips Lytle's Buffalo office.
On December 7, 2010, a jury found Cybex liable and awarded Ms. Barnhard $65.9 million in damages, following an eight-week trial before 8th District State Supreme Court Justice Diane Y. Devlin. While the appellate panel today reduced the damage award to $45.2 million, it remains the highest personal injury award ever to come out of an Erie County courtroom.
"Even with the reduction, the amount of this verdict really recognizes the harm to this young lady. Regretfully, most of the money is going to be needed for her 24 hour a day care for the rest of her life. The bulk of the award, which the Fourth Department let stand for Natalie's future medical expenses," said Michael Law, a partner from Phillips Lytle's Rochester office.
In its decision, the panel reduced the original jury award for past pain and suffering from $8 million to $3 million; future pain and suffering from $25 million to $9 million, and eliminated a $792,435 award for care of potential children.
It left intact, $28.56 million for future medical expenses, $1.68 million for past medical expenses, $151,690 in past lost earnings and $1.79 million for future lost earnings.
Ms. Barnhard, now 31, sustained her grave injuries on October 22, 2004, when a 608-pound Cybex leg extension machine toppled onto her at Amherst Orthopedic Physical Therapy PC, where she was employed. The petite, 5'1", 110 pound physical therapy assistant was crushed when she did a shoulder stretch using the machine.
She is currently residing in the Atlanta area where she is receiving advanced physical therapy and treatment. While she has made minor gains in function, she remains a quadriplegic.
Her attorneys argued that Cybex, the world's leading manufacturer of commercial exercise equipment, sold a defectively designed and unstable product and failed to give adequate warnings and instructions in that it issued conflicting instructions regarding the installation and anchoring requirements for this machine. The jury also found that Cybex failed to give notice or warning of the tip-over hazard after receiving notice of others being injured on similar Cybex products.
Mr. English is the leader of the Phillips Lytle's Litigation Practice Group. He focuses on trial and appellate practice in both state and federal courts. He focuses his law practice in the areas of commercial litigation, including corporate dissolution matters, and non-compete and employee disloyalty matters, contract litigation, including construction and insurance contracts, tort and personal injury litigation, including recreational and sports injury matters.
Mr. Law's litigation practice includes legal proceedings involving personal injury, products liability, toxic tort or industrial exposure, construction accidents, professional malpractice, insurance, contract and commercial law issues in both federal and state courts.
Phillips Lytle LLP, established in 1834, is a multi-disciplined law firm with offices in New York State and Canada. The firm represents a diverse, multinational client base, including Fortune 500 companies, global, regional and local financial institutions, mid-sized and emerging businesses, and individuals on important matters affecting their businesses and personal wealth. For more information, visit www.phillipslytle.com.
Rebecca E. Farbo
Phillips Lytle LLP
SOURCE Phillips Lytle LLP