Tanenbaum Keale LLP partners Thomas D. Robertson and Timothy R. Freeman successfully defended Caterpillar Inc. and protected the client from facing any financial liability in a high-profile litigation matter.

A jury in the Supreme Court of New York, Kings County, recently found that a Caterpillar excavator was not a substantial factor in causing an accident involving serious injuries to a laborer and assigned zero liability to Caterpillar. The three-week trial in Andrade v. The Port Authority v. ACD v. Caterpillar Inc. concluded in late May, although a separate trial on damages is expected to commence this fall.

“Caterpillar is confident that the verdict was fair and consistent with the evidence and testimony presented at trial, and it will be affirmed,” Robertson said.

The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred in November 2017 on the Bayonne Bridge in Staten Island, New York. At that time, an employee of Atlantic Coast Dismantling, LLC, Environmental and Infrastructure Group, LLC, and Atlantic Coast Dismantling Environmental and Infrastructure Group JV (collectively ACD) was operating a Caterpillar excavator, when the right track on the machine struck a concrete jersey barrier, causing it to topple over.

The barrier then crushed the plaintiff’s left leg against the parapet siding of the bridge, resulting in an above-the-knee amputation.

The plaintiff sued the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the bridge, as well as the general contractor, under New York Labor Laws, which contain specific requirements for construction worksite safety. Those entities, as well as ACD, filed third-party claims against Caterpillar, asserting that the excavator was defectively designed and that the alleged design defect was a substantial factor in causing the accident.

Robertson and Freeman successfully defended Caterpillar Inc. against allegations of defective design in the bifurcated trial on liability only. Ultimately, the jury found that the design of the excavator was not a proximate cause of the accident and assigned 0% fault to Caterpillar.