Tanenbaum Keale LLP recently reached a confidential settlement related to its attorney fee application in connection with the long-running litigation in Danielle Fisher v. A.O. Smith Harvestore Products, et al.

In late September 2020, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a non-jury verdict from the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The Court held that CST Industries, Inc. was obligated to indemnify A.O. Smith in connection with all liabilities in this litigation and affirmed the trial court’s ruling on a post-trial motion to award A.O. Smith attorney fees and expenses in connection with the litigation.

The effect of the ruling is that A.O. Smith is not required to reimburse CST Industries, Inc. for a substantial settlement funded by CST in 2013 to resolve an underlying lawsuit arising from personal injuries. In addition, CST was ordered to reimburse A.O. Smith for attorney fees and expenses that it incurred during the litigation.

Tanenbaum Keale attorneys Tom Robertson, Tiffany Alexander, and Tim Freeman, represented A.O. Smith during the trial and appeal process.

Originally filed in 2010 as a product liability and negligence action, the lawsuit arose out of serious injuries the plaintiff sustained while using agricultural equipment manufactured by a former subsidiary of A.O. Smith, known as A.O. Smith Harvestore Products, Inc. (AOSHPI). AOSHPI manufactured the product in question in 1980. In 1996, AOSHPI sold the automated products line to a third party but maintained liabilities for all roller mills sold before the closing of that transaction.

In 2000, A.O. Smith sold the remaining assets and liabilities of AOSHPI, along with other related assets and liabilities, to CST Industries, Inc., pursuant to an Asset Purchase Agreement (APA).

In 2010, a student working at a Pennsylvania agricultural college was seriously injured when her hand was caught in the subject Harvestore roller mill. Plaintiff filed suit against numerous parties, including A.O. Smith Corporation and CST Industries, Inc. The dispute focused on whether the subject roller mill incident was CST’s “assumed liability” within the meaning of the APA.

The trial judge granted A.O. Smith’s motion for summary judgment in January 2013 on the eve of trial, ruling that the subject roller mill incident was an “assumed liability” under the APA and that CST was obligated to indemnify A.O. Smith for any and all liabilities arising out of the subject roller mill accident.

In February 2013, CST funded a substantial settlement in the underlying action, but appealed the summary judgment ruling in favor of A.O. Smith. The Superior Court ultimately reversed and remanded for a trial to ascertain the parties’ contractual intent.

Following a three-day bench trial in February 2019, the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County entered a verdict in favor of A.O. Smith, finding that the parties intended for CST to assume roller mill liabilities pursuant to the APA. A.O. Smith then filed a post-trial motion seeking attorney fees and expenses.

The post-trial motion was granted, and CST sought appellate review of the verdict and post-trial motion ruling, leading to the September 2020 ruling in favor of A.O. Smith that resulted in the settlement agreement.