A state appellate court recently addressed the applicability of the consumer expectations test in a California product liability claim against a forklift manufacturer. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries when a forklift he was operating tipped over. The forklift at issue is known as a “telehandler,” which is designed to work on rough terrain and travel off paved surfaces. These devices have a telescopic boom that can extend to carry loads to high elevations.
The telehandler had a steel cage around the operator that worked as a rollover protective system. The machine also had a two-point seat belt and a leveling system that allowed the operator to flatten a slope about 10 degrees. However, the safety manual warned that the telehandler should not be used on any slope over 10 degrees. Additionally, the manual stated that operators should not travel with the boom elevated because doing so could cause a rollover. The telehandler was sold with a door; however, in this case, the door was removed before the incident.
On the day of the incident, the plaintiff was asked to move several industrial ovens at a worksite. After performing an inspection of the machine, he got into the telehandler and traveled to the area with the ovens. He did this without wearing a seat belt and with the boom elevated. When he reached the area, and began to back up, the telehandler fell on its side, and the plaintiff fell out of the forklift.