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Society Insurance et al. v. LG Electronics USA Inc. et al.



Injuries claimed: Property damages

Court: U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin

Case name: Society Insurance et al. v. LG Electronics USA Inc. et al.

Case number: 2006-CV-01075-WEC

Judge: Magistrate Judge William E. Callahan Jr.

Verdict & settlement: Verdict in favor of defense, no liability

Original amount sought: $700,000

Award: Defense verdict

Date of incident: Sept. 8, 2003

Disposition date: June 26, 2009

Original filing date: Oct. 13, 2006

Plaintiffs attorney (firm): Wendy G. Gunderson, Smith Gunderson & Rowen SC, Brookfield

Defendants attorney (firm): Paul D. Cranley, Travis West, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek SC, Madison

Plaintiffs expert witnesses: Chris Korinek and Rich Relien

Defendants expert witnesses: Samuel Sudler and Lawerence “Bud” Eastman

Defense counsel’s summary of the facts: Plaintiff alleged microwave oven manufactured and sold by the defendants started fire, causing extensive damage to plaintiff’s business.

The plaintiffs’ expert conceded in deposition that he could not identify any specific defect in the microwave oven, but opined that it was “by definition” defective based on his opinion that it caused the fire. Prior to trial, the defendants succeeded in barring this opinion as unsupported speculation.

Although the plaintiffs had no direct evidence of a specific defect, they argued at trial that a defect could be inferred because non-defective microwave ovens should not start fires.

The court permitted this theory, and ultimately instructed the jury it could infer a defect if the jury found that the fire started inside the microwave oven.

The plaintiffs urged the jury to find the microwave oven caused the fire because it was the only potential ignition source found in the area of origin.

The plaintiffs also relied on the testimony of a cause and origin expert and an electrical engineer who testified that the burn patterns in and around the microwave oven demonstrated that the fire started inside the control section of the oven.

The defendants conceded that no other ignition source could be identified in the area of origin, but argued that other possible causes could not be ruled out.

Rather than relying on subjective interpretations of the burn patterns, the defendants presented the testimony of an electrical engineer who analyzed the remains of the microwave oven and found no evidence of electrical causation.

The jury was apparently convinced by this testimony, and found that the fire did not start inside the microwave oven, resulting in a judgment in favor of the defendants.

Jury trial: Five days

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