Flying carpet suit successfully mediated

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Oct. 4, 2007, 5:46am

MARSHALL -- Although previous attempts at settlement negotiations were unsuccessful, Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven was able to achieve mediation magic in the flying carpet litigation at a conference held on Sept. 25.

The court records state that while working at Lowe's in early July 2006, Leiza Alexander was attempting to use an automatic flooring cutter to cut a roll of carpet. When she unrolled the carpet from the larger roll, the equipment malfunctioned. Alexander states the large roll of carpet ejected and landed on her causing injuries to her leg and back.

Alexander filed the original complaint against the equipment manufacturer, United Fixtures Company, on November 22, 2006 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Although not sued by Alexander, Lowe's Home Center entered the litigation in late February as an intervener.

Alleging strict liability, the suit states the United Fixtures' automatic flooring cutter was "unreasonably dangerous and defective" and that "such accidents and injuries had taken place previously." The suit argues the defendant had notice of "such product propensities by its own testing."

Asserting breach of warranty and negligence, the plaintiff states that United Fixtures "was negligent in the design, manufacture, assembly, marketing and testing of the automatic flooring cutter" and misrepresented the equipment's quality and safety.

Alexander believes the equipment did not comply with industry safety standards and the equipment did not have the possible safety retrofitting or upgrades.

The original suit sought damages for medical expenses, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of wage earning capacity and on behalf of Alexander's two daughters, loss of parental consortium. In addition, Alexander was seeking punitive damages stating United Fixtures had "subjective awareness" of the risk of harm but "proceeded with the conscious indifference."

Denying all allegations, United Fixtures filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the plaintiff's expert, Jack T. Madeley, did not produce a complete state of opinions. The defendant also argued the expert did not provide or prove that their automatic flooring cutter was unreasonably dangerous or that the industry had safer design alternatives.

The court document states that United Fixtures does not have a relationship or a contract with Alexander because the equipment was sold to Lowe's and not to her.

Forest Braselton conducted the first mediation, which resulted in an impasse. A few months later, Judge David Folsom referred the case to Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven. With all parties present, the judge was able to conduct a successful mediation conference.

The parties did not disclose the settlement amount.

Representing the plaintiff is lead attorney from Longview Dan Stroup. Blake Erskine of the Longview law firm Erskine and MacMahone also represented the plaintiff.

Case No.: 2:06cv00489

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