Maine Jury Awards Widow $4.2M in Forklift Death

August 31, 2006

A federal jury has awarded $4.2 million to a Sanford woman whose 48-year-old husband was killed three years ago in a workplace accident involving a forklift truck, but the amount she stands to receive will be considerably less.

Jurors deliberated for nearly 10 hours Monday before returning their verdict in favor of Claire Brown. However, a limit on damage awards for loss of spousal companionship will reduce the amount that Brown receives from Crown Equipment Corp. of New Bremen, Ohio, to either $1.4 million or $1.6 million.

Brown alleged that the manufacturer failed to warn her husband that the lift truck he operated at Prime Tanning in Berwick had a design flaw that contributed to his death.

Crown argued that the truck’s design was not to blame for the Aug. 1, 2003, accident in which Thomas Brown died a slow death from suffocation after being pinned between a horizontal shelf and the truck’s console.

Terrence Garmey, Brown’s lawyer, told jurors that Crown knew of 220 similar accidents, many resulting in serious injuries and 10 of which caused deaths prior to Brown’s.

“Brown was on notice that this machine was a serial killer. Period,” Garmey said. “For years they had a don’t ask, don’t tell policy for saving lives.”

Crown’s lawyer, James Campbell, said the company did all it could to inform customers about safety improvements and maintained that the accident was the victim’s fault.

“It’s a most unfortunate and tragic situation, but Mr. Brown had control of that truck and drove it under the rack,” he said.

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