Products Liability

Throughout our 35-year history, we have had significant trial experience in complex products liability litigation. This tradition is reflected in our wide variety of clients and complexity of matters. Our products liability attorneys have experience in handling motor vehicle, medical device, pharmaceutical, home products, manufacturing equipment, juvenile products and aircraft litigation. These cases often involve multiple plaintiffs and defendants; complex engineering and design concepts; and complex federal, state, and international procedure.

When an accident or emergency arises, Sandberg Phoenix is quick to respond on behalf of our clients. We are also proactive about tracking suits. In some cases, Sandberg Phoenix may know about a products liability suit before the client does. By responding quickly, and performing a thorough investigation, we are able to better prepare for or prevent a possible trial and costly litigation.

Sandberg Phoenix recognizes how products liability cases can financially impact a company. Our experienced litigators take a thorough, yet cost-conscious approach to case preparation. For every case, Sandberg Phoenix provides our clients with an up-front evaluation that informs clients of their chances of success, potential and probable exposure, and anticipated costs so they know the risks involved. We are also aware of the long-term effects that a products liability case can have on public perception. We focus on not only winning a case, but also take steps to avoid future litigation. We are not out to try every case. Our ultimate goal is always to obtain the best resolution for the client, but yet have a thorough enough defense and preparation to try the case if necessary.

Given the geographic areas which predominate our practice, to include Madison and St. Clair Counties in Illinois and the City of St. Louis in Missouri, we frequently encounter plaintiffs in wrongful death or injury cases who conduct “forum shopping” in venues with no direct ties to their accident claims. Routinely, one of our first areas of inquiry is whether the plaintiff’s choice of forum is appropriate. Where inappropriate, we take all steps possible to have the case transferred to federal court or a more appropriate state court venue. Because these liability claims frequently involve matters with large exposure, we tend to play a significant role in our clients’ handling of similar products cases in other jurisdictions. This role includes such activities as developing a nationwide strategy for the coordination of discovery in products liability lawsuits, preparation of in-house witnesses for deposition or trial testimony in similar products liability cases in other jurisdictions, and providing trial insight and guidance to other local counsel.

Although Sandberg Phoenix primarily represents our clients in Missouri and Illinois, we also serve as their national and regional counsel, and supervise litigation in other areas of the country. Our affiliation with the Network of Trial Law Firms allows us a network of resources in locating expert witnesses and sharing expertise with other products liability counsel that allows us to provide quality representation wherever the case may be pending.

As is apparent from the representative clients listed under Industries, many of our clients are household-named corporations with manufacturing, marketing, subsidiaries, business relations and customers throughout the world. A few examples of the specific type of matters in which we have represented these clients, include the following:

  • Represented a multi-national manufacturer of heavy industrial equipment in a wrongful death lawsuit brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, East St. Louis Division. From the inception of the lawsuit, our client was regarded as the target defendant in this multi-million dollar claim. The allegation was our client improperly selected a backstop for a vertical lift conveyor. After arduous discovery and the deposition of plaintiffs’ and co-defendants’ experts, we were able to demonstrate the backstop selection was within the specifications provided by the manufacturer. Plaintiffs’ focus then switched to the conveyor manufacturer and a failure to provide a mechanical lockout theory. Ultimately, the case was favorably resolved for our client with the conveyor manufacturer paying the lion’s share of a settlement.
  • Represented an ATV manufacturer in a case brought by a brain-injured plaintiff in St. Clair County, Illinois. Plaintiff’s medical bills exceeded $500,000 and plaintiff had significant residual brain injury. Plaintiff claimed the four-wheeled ATV involved was defective as a result of a failure to provide a proper chain guard. The accident vehicle was stolen from plaintiff’s attorney mid course in the litigation. We worked with numerous experts, conducting complex testing that proved the plaintiff’s theory wrong. Although the vehicle was no longer available, eventually we were able to demonstrate the vehicle had a bent frame due to a prior accident. Ultimately, the case was settled on behalf of the ATV manufacturer at an amount far below the amount of the plaintiff’s medical bills or the amount it would have taken to try the case.
  • Represented recycling equipment manufacturer in a plant explosion case alleging several million dollars in property damage and business loss. Given the facts of the case the federal court allowed a punitive claim to go to the jury. Plaintiffs received one third of their submitted actual damages and the jury denied their punitive claim.
  • Represented a worldwide pharmaceutical company in defense of claims that pancreatic enzyme supplements manufactured by one of its foreign subsidiaries were defective causing permanent damage to the gastrointestinal systems of cystic fibrosis patients. We coordinated the cases nationwide and worked with experts worldwide developing defenses to plaintiffs’ liability claims. Many of the cases were filed in unfavorable jurisdictions. The disease involved, fibrosing colonopathy, was newly discovered in the early 1990’s and, hence, the medical and causation issues involved were cutting edge. Discovery, which we also coordinated on a national basis, was extensive, eventually requiring the development of a document database. Eventually, all of the plaintiffs’ claims were successfully resolved.
  • Represented an automobile manufacturer in a case involving a paraplegic sixteen year old. After a three-week trial, a Joplin, Missouri jury rendered a verdict in favor of the manufacturer. This case was listed as the #2 defense verdict in the State of Missouri for 2000 by the Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
  • Defended a products liability action in Madison County for an overhead crane manufacturer. Plaintiff claimed the crane installed was defective in its cab design and there was a lack of warning devices and intermittent horns. After a long trial, the jury returned a defense verdict for our client.

We believe in taking a business approach to the representation of our clients, whether defending or prosecuting a lawsuit. We quickly evaluate the issues with our clients, and then recommend creative strategic solutions. We are proud of our record in effectively handling our clients’ business problems. We are known not for turning over every proverbial stone, but for finding and turning over the right ones. Understanding that our clients are running a business, we know business considerations sometimes require quick, quiet resolutions. In other cases litigation is the only recourse. We pride ourselves on being counselors of law, and we are there to help you make the right business decisions before and after a dispute arises.

While members of our Business Litigation Group regularly negotiate, mediate and arbitrate disputes, our members are known for their trials in federal and state courts, mainly in Missouri and Illinois, but also on a regional basis. First and foremost we are trial lawyers, not just “litigators.” Our Group regularly holds in-house seminars to hone, refine and improve our advocacy skills, and to stay current with the ever-changing substantive law and court rules. Just as a business must grow and change to remain competitive, our lawyers are committed to continuing education and skill enhancement to ensure our clients receive the absolute best in legal representation.

Our regular trial practice in federal and state courts and our commitment to excellence has inspired us to build our own courtroom in the firm’s St. Louis office. Our courtroom was modeled after the local United States District Court, and contains all the same state-of-the-art media and technology. Our aim and commitment is to provide our attorneys, clients and witnesses with the courtroom experience and effective preparation necessary for serious trial work.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. © 2016 Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard P.C. All Rights Reserved. Sandberg Phoenix & Von Gontard a law firm with a primary office located in Downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Website Design by Timmermann Group