Mel Karfis, Bishop Bartoni, and Stephanie Anderson recently obtained dismissal of a client/retailer in a treestand/ratchet strap products liability matter pending in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. Plaintiff claimed that a replacement ratchet strap used to secure this treestand to a tree was defectively designed and/or manufactured. Plaintiff claims that this ratchet strap, sold by the client/retailer, broke when the Plaintiff stepped on his treestand approximately 25 feet up in a tree. During the fall the Plaintiff sustained severe deep lacerations to the entire length of his left forearm resulting in permanent tendon and nerve damage. Plaintiff alleged that the client/retailer was liable for selling the allegedly defective strap. Defendant responded that Plaintiff had not made a prima facie case that the product was defective and the client/retailer could not be responsible for the Plaintiff’s injuries. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the Plaintiff had not established a prima facie case for a design, manufacturing, or warnings case against the client/retailer. As a result of the motion, the Court entered an order dismissing the client/retailer with prejudice.
Stephanie M. AndersonStephanie Anderson Clark Hill
Stephanie M. Anderson
Stephanie M. Anderson is a senior attorney in the Litigation Practice Group of Clark Hill’s Birmingham office, specializing in product liability matters and serves as national counsel for companies in different fields throughout the United States.
Stephanie has successfully defended clients in products liability matters in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products, including, but not limited to: asbestos, automobiles, boats, boilers, furniture, conveyor lines, lawn mowers, power presses, robotic equipment and semi-trailer trucks. Stephanie specializes in defending manufacturers of hunting, outdoor and recreational products, which include treestands, guns and bows, crossbows, arrows, and safety harnesses.
Stephanie has successfully defended clients and also specializes in defending companies that provide line clearance services to the utility industry, including disputes and personal injury litigation related to utility line construction and maintenance and vegetation management for utilities and government agencies.
Stephanie has extensive litigation experience and has successfully defended numerous clients in the following representative areas of practice: automobile negligence, trucking and transportation litigation, commercial and real estate litigation, including contract disputes, adverse possession, easements and other real estate disputes, construction accident litigation, insurance coverage, and premises liability litigation.
Stephanie has gained extensive experience in both Federal and State Courts and has handled matters throughout the country, including: Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, California, Nevada, Mississippi and Texas. She has also briefed and/or argued appeals in the Michigan Court of Appeals, Michigan Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In addition, Stephanie worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Gerald E. Rosen of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Stephanie has been recognized annually since 2013 by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star and The Top Woman Attorneys in Michigan since 2014.
Publications 2012-2013 Annual Survey of Michigan Law: Insurance Law, 58 Wayne L. Rev. 911 (2013)
Clark Hill’s defense counsel team which included Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson, Bishop Bartoni, Vince Roskovensky, and Lisa Eldridge recently obtained a directed verdict in a treestand products liability jury trial pending in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA). Plaintiff fell 30 feet from a treestand sustaining serious injuries rendering him a paraplegic. Plaintiff alleged that a treestand sold by the client/retailer failed to provide all the necessary components to safely install and use the treestand. Defendant responded that it did provide all the necessary components that would have been supplied by the manufacturer. Defendant further argued that even if the Plaintiff did not receive all the necessary parts and components, Plaintiff had full knowledge that he was allegedly missing parts and made a conscious decision to replace various components with unauthorized replacements. During trial, defense counsel effectively cross-examined the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff’s fact witnesses, as well as the Plaintiff’s engineers. After the close of the Plaintiff’s proofs, Defendant moved for directed verdict alleging that Plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case that the client/retailer sold a defective treestand and, in the alternative, the Plaintiff had assumed the risk because cross-examination at trial had revealed the Plaintiff had full knowledge that he was alleging missing vital components and knowingly used unauthorized replacement parts in an improper manner causing his fall. The trial court agreed and granted Defendants’ motion for directed verdict dismissing the case.
Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson, and Bishop Bartoni recently obtained a unanimous defense verdict in a products liability lawsuit pending in Rusk County, Wisconsin. The Plaintiff sustained serious permanent injuries and disfigurement when he fell approximately 25 feet from a treestand shattering both legs. The Plaintiff claimed that the safety harness he was utilizing at the time of the fall, manufactured by the Defendant, did not operate properly and failed to arrest his fall. The Plaintiff claimed he received the wrong warnings and instructions for his product and that the safety harness instructions and labeling were inadequate and a direct cause of the accident. Defendant responded that the Plaintiff failed to properly utilize the safety harness as directed from the manufacturer. Defendant also submitted evidence, along with expert testing, that the cause of the accident was not some defect or inadequate warnings or instructions, but rather the Plaintiff’s misuse of the product which was a direct result of the accident. The 11 person jury unanimously agreed with the Defendant’s position and rendered a defense verdict in less than an hour.
Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson, Bishop Bartoni & Barry Sutton won a victory for their clients in a products liability case in Mississippi. The Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the Circuit Court of Jasper County, Mississippi, one of the most plaintiff friendly jurisdictions in the South, for injuries resulting from a fall while using the subject treestand and full body safety harness. The Plaintiffs filed suit against the manufacturer, retailer, as well as the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA), which is a Mississippi voluntary non-profit trade association. Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson and Bishop Bartoni defended the manufacturer and removed this case to United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi based on fraudulent joinder of the non-diverse TMA. Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the case back to state court. Sutton joined in opposition to the remand and filed a Motion to Dismiss on behalf of our other client, the TMA.
The Federal District Court, noting the heavy burden in establishing fraudulent joinder, held that Plaintiffs could not establish a viable claim against the TMA because the TMA was not a manufacturer, designer or seller and could not be liable under the Mississippi Product Liability Act. The Federal District Court further noted that Plaintiffs failed to plead any factual allegations that the TMA took any action or made any representations that resulted in the injury. Plaintiffs Motion for Remand was denied and the District Court properly found that the TMA was improperly joined for the sole purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction. As such, the District Court further dismissed the TMA with prejudice from the suit and Clark Hill will continue to defend its clients in Federal Court, escaping the very dangerous local state court.
Karfis, Bartoni, and Anderson recently obtained dismissal in a products liability action pending in the Northern District of Iowa involving a hunting ladderstand. The Plaintiff alleged that the subject ladderstand was defectively designed and lacked proper warnings. The Plaintiff was attempting to install the ladderstand when the metal frame of the ladderstand bent causing the Plaintiff to fall to the ground and sustain serious injuries. Plaintiff also alleged that he did not receive any written warnings or instructions with the subject ladderstand and thus there was also a manufacturing defect for the subject ladderstand. Defendant asserted that there was no defect with the subject ladderstand and the design had met all industry performance standards. Defendant also obtained very favorable testimony that even if the Plaintiff did not receive the written warnings and instructions, he proceeded to attempt to utilize the ladderstand knowing the warnings and instructions were missing which established the assumption of risk defense. The Defendant filed a Daubert motion to strike the Plaintiff’s expert as well as motion for summary judgment that there was no defect with the subject ladderstand. In response, knowing the very strong position Defendant had developed in the case, the Plaintiff agreed to voluntary dismissal with prejudice as to all counts, dismissing the case in its entirety.
Mel Karfis, Bishop Bartoni, and Stephanie Anderson were successful in having summary judgment affirmed in favor of their clients in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit from a case pending in Federal Court in Louisiana. The Plaintiff sustained significant injuries to his back resulting in multiple surgical repairs and permanent disabling conditions after falling from a treestand he claimed was defective and unreasonably dangerous. The defense presented expert testimony and evidence to establish that Plaintiff had left the treestand exposed to the outdoor elements for years resulting in deterioration of the webbing material of the straps holding the treestand in the tree. Defendant established Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to establish his claims, which resulted in summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Fifth Circuit Court affirmed finding that Plaintiff’s evidence was purely speculative inferences of a defective condition and agreed with Defendants that Plaintiff could not exclude other possible explanations for the straps’ breaking, including misuse. The Fifth Circuit Court also affirmed that the district court properly granted summary judgment of Plaintiffs warning claims because Plaintiff explicitly admitted his knowledge of the danger associated with environmental exposure of the subject product.
Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson and Bishop Bartoni obtained a “no cause of action” in a binding arbitration in a wrongful death products liability action involving an allegedly defective safety harness. The Plaintiff’s estate brought a wrongful death action alleging that Defendant’s safety harness did not operate properly and arrest his fall while utilizing a treestand. Plaintiff alleged the safety harness malfunctioned when the Plaintiff fell from his treestand allowing him to fall to the ground and sustain fatal injuries in front of his two young children. The Plaintiff alleged the safety harness was defectively designed and also provided inadequate warnings. The safety harness manufacturer asserted there was no defect with the safety harness and the warnings were adequate. After presentation of the Defendant’s corporate representative and several experts, as well as effectively cross-examining the Plaintiff’s fact witness and experts, the arbitrator found completely in Defendant’s favor and found “no cause of action”.
Barry Sutton, Bishop Bartoni and Stephanie Anderson won a victory for their client in a product liability case pending in Federal Court in Philadelphia. The Plaintiff sued an alleged successor in interest to the manufacturer and the retailer in a product liability treestand case. The incident rendered him a paraplegic. Plaintiff sought recovery against the purported successor under the Pennsylvania product line exception to successor liability. In a case in which the demand was well in excess of ten million dollars, the Plaintiff’s counsel voluntarily dismissed the Plaintiff’s case against our client because he did not want Clark Hill counsel at trial conducting examinations of his experts. Clark Hill then sought and obtained a motion for summary judgment on the cross claims from the retailer, resulting in judgment in favor of our client.
Barry Sutton and Stephanie Anderson won a victory for their client in a product liablity trial in Federal Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland. The Plaintiff sued a distributor of archery products, demanding close to a million dollars due to an injury he suffered while using an arrow. The Plaintiff argued that the arrow was defective and caused his injury. Following the trial, the jury returned a quick verdict in favor of the distributor finding no defect in the product. The verdict, which followed summary judgment in favor of the defendant on all claims of design and warning, vindicated the design and warnings provided with the product, as well as the manufacturing and quality control process used in the production of the product.
Barry Sutton, Bishop Bartoni and Stephanie Anderson won summary judgment on behalf of our clients, Bass Pro Shops, American Sportsman’s Holdings, Bass Pro, LLC and Bass Pro Outdoors Online, LLC in Federal Court in the Southern District of Mississippi. In this emotionally charged case highlighted by multiple, national media reports, our client Bass Pro Shops was accused of selling hunting equipment that was allegedly subject to recalls issued by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Plaintiff’s adult son died in connection with a treestand accident, and, although no products sold by our clients were involved in that accident, Plaintiff sought out and attempted to purchase numerous other hunting products not involved in her accident that she claimed had been recalled. She alleged a conspiracy to sell and/or recycle recalled products by the hunting industry and retailers.
The Federal District Court dismissed the case against our clients. The Court found that Plaintiff was unable to prove that the products she purchased were actually subject to any recall. Since this was an essential allegation to each of her multiple counts, the Court granted summary judgment.