Power buggy malfunctions, throwing worker to his death

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Verdicts & Settlements: Industrial Products & Equipment

December 11, 2012

Power buggy malfunctions, throwing worker to his death 

Isidro Pelayo, a 39-year-old concrete foreman, was operating a Miller Scoot-Crete MB-16 Stand On Power Buggy on the sixth floor of a hotel parking garage under construction. The machine consists of a front dump bucket and a rear operator’s platform. The operator squeezes the handle to start the cart moving and releases it—disengaging the throttle—to stop.

Pelayo was driving the cart in reverse when he let go of the handle to stop the machine. The throttle remained engaged, and the machine continued traveling backward, crashing through an elevator shaft. Pelayo fell about 70 feet to the ground, suffering fatal injuries. He is survived by his wife, four minor daughters, and one adult daughter.

Pelayo’s wife, individually and on behalf of the couple’s minor daughters, sued the manufacturer of the cart, the company that sold it to Pelayo’s employer, and a company that manufactured the throttle release spring. The plaintiffs contended that the spring—which is designed to cause the throttle to return to the neutral position—fractured, causing the throttle to remain engaged when Pelayo released the handle. The plaintiffs alleged both design and manufacturing defects, arguing that the spring was insufficiently designed for the application and that it had fractured because of foreign material that had been introduced during the manufacturing process.

Suit also alleged negligent maintenance against two companies that had serviced the machine.

The plaintiffs claimed about $1.8 million for past and future lost earnings. They did not claim medical expenses.

The plaintiffs settled with the cart manufacturer for $500,000, with the seller for $30,000, and with the service companies for $25,000 each.

The plaintiffs later settled with the spring manufacturer for a confidential amount.

Citation: Pelayo v. Ahern Rentals, Inc., Nos. A542130, A630679 (Nev., Clark Co. Dist. Oct. 17, 2012).

Plaintiff counsel: Jay A. Kenyon and AAJ member Michael D. Haight, both of Las Vegas; and Kristina L. Hillman and Barry Hinkle, both of Alameda, Calif.

Plaintiff experts: Lester Henderson, forensic engineering, and Kevin W. Hollander, mechanical engineering, both of Phoenix.

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