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MCDANIEL v. TRAIL KING INDUSTRIES

December 12, 2002

JOE MCDANIEL, PLAINTIFF
V.
TRAIL KING INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANTS. TRAIL KING INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF, V. MR. BULT'S, INC.; SHRED-ALL RECYCLING SYSTEMS, INC.; AND WAGNER TARPS, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Joe McDaniel fell off of a tipper trailer that he was using to haul municipal waste. As a result of the fall, McDaniel's leg was amputated. Among the parties that McDaniel sued in this diversity action was the manufacturer of the trailer, Trail King Industries, Inc. ("Trail King"), on theories of strict liability, negligence and breach of warranties. Trail King has filed a motion for summary judgment. As detailed below, Trail King's motion is denied in part and granted in part.

UNCONTESTED FACTS*fn1

I. The Parties

Joe McDaniel resides in Illinois. (R. 106-1, Trail King Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 7.) He began his career as a truck driver in the early 1970s and started hauling municipal waste in 1992. (Id. ¶ 35, 38.) At the time of the incident, McDaniel was employed by Mr. Bult's, Inc. as a driver that pulled tipper trailers*fn2 to haul municipal waste (Id. ¶ 1, 44, 46.)

Trail King is a South Dakota corporation with its principal place of business in that state. (R.106-1, Trail King Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 8.) Trail King designs and manufactures tipper trailers for waste hauling. (Id. ¶ 2.)

II. The Facts

A. The trailer

The Trail King tipper trailer (the "trailer") that was involved in the incident is a little more than 13 feet high and is approximately 8 1/2 feet wide. (R 106-1, Trail King Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 29.) The trailer is equipped with two ladders that were furnished by Defendant Werner, Inc. (Id. ¶ 26,) One ladder is affixed to the front bulkhead of the trailer. (Id.) The other is affixed to the rear of the trailer. (Id.) The rear ladder is centered between the sides of the trailer. (Id. ¶ 27.) The top of the rear ladder is mounted just below the top of the trailer. (Id.) The trailer does not have any hand rails on the tailgate for the drivers to use while climbing on the rear ladder or affixing a tarp. (R. 107-I, McDaniel Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 59.) The trailer also does not have a platform to walk on. Although a two-inch channel or brace protrudes from the tailgate, it is an insufficient surface on which to stand. (Id. ¶ 102)

B. The tarp

Mr. Bult's requires every trailer to be tarped prior to transporting waste. (R. 107-1, McDaniel Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 42.) Without a tarp, pieces of waste are able to fly out of the trailers. (Id. ¶ 66.) The entire open area of the trailers must be covered by the tarp in order to prevent the loss of any waste. (Id.) Although Mr. Bult's purchased the manual tarp itself from Third-Party Defendant Wagner Tarps, (R. 106-1, Trail King Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 31), Trail King equipped the tipper trailers which it sold to Mr. Bult's with manual tarping systems that utilized U-brackets to hold the tarp in place, tarp hooks to strap the tarp down, and front and rear ladders. (R., 107-1, McDaniel Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 50.)

C. The manual tarping process

After unrolling the tarp to cover the trailer, the driver partially descends the rear ladder. (R. 107-1 McDaniel Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 68-71.) The ladder functions as not only a mechanism to ascend and descend the trailer, but also as a work station. (Id. ¶ 135-136.) While standing on the ladder, the driver pulls the tarp down until he can place the tube into U-brackets. (Id. ¶ 91-93.) The driver then folds over the corner piece of the tarp to a position where it can be properly tied to the tarp hook. (Id. ¶ 96.) Next, the driver completely descends the rear ladder and goes around to each side of the trailer to attach the tarp to the trailer using bungee cords. (Id. ¶ 68.)

During the unrolling process, the tarp may become caught on the rail of the trailer or snagged on the municipal waste inside the trailer. (R. 107-1, McDaniel Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 81-83, 85.) These problems can occur at any point, including just a few feet away from the end of the trailer. (Id. ¶ 82.) Some drivers will correct problems with ...


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