A Moyle Excavation employee, Joseph B. Griggs, was awarded the single largest individual personal injury verdict in California history after he sustained severe personal injury in the form of third-degree burns sustained after the construction vehicle he was operating suddenly burst into flames. Griggs settled with and was awarded damages from construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, distributor West-Pac Industries, employer Moyle Excavation, and defective part importer Tool Exchange. Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP represented Griggs in the product liability suit.
Griggs was operating the construction vehicle when it caught fire, an act that the defense claimed was the result of Griggs smoking. However, Attorney Brian Panish argued that the blaze was actually sparked by a defective mechanical part in the construction vehicle’s hydraulic system. Specifically, it was determined that a defective rubber seal, called an O-ring, was to blame for the sudden fire ignition. The defective auto product failed, allowing a spray of flammable liquid to come into contact with the vehicle’s hot engine.
Griggs leapt from the flaming vehicle, but suffered third-degree burns that covered 75% of his body. The accident took place on September 10, 1998 while Griggs was working in Valley Springs, CA.