Liability Case for Milgard Stalls on Hung Jury

March 20th, 2019 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

A legal battle dating back to 2016, between Milgard Manufacturing Inc. and a San Diego-based builder claiming damages from product liability, was declared a mistrial recently, ending on a hung jury. According to court documents filed last week, Judge Roger T. Benitez, of Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, declared a mistrial, following a seven-day hearing. The trial began February 27, following a denial of motions in limine (pretrial) by the manufacturer.

After a failed attempt to install a window manufactured by Milgard, plaintiffs Brock Mathis and Michelle Mathis filed suit against the company, citing claims of product liability, attempting to recover what they allege are damages arising from injuries. On April 18, 2016, Brock Mathis, owner of BPM Builders Inc., authorized the purchase of the involved window unit from Dixieline Lumber Co. On May 31, 2016, Mathis attempted to install the product, with the help of two colleagues.

Represented by Michael D. Padilla, of O’Mara and Padilla in Encinitas, Calif., Mathis claims that the company’s window frame bent, flexed, buckled and/or bowed, such that it fell into the window opening. Its flanges, he alleges, folded, buckled and/or were unintentionally locked into the opening, at which point he claims the window became stuck, swinging back, knocking installers from supportive scaffolding.

The case hung in tit-for-tat filings for more than two years. In May 2018, a ruling was issued, denying a pretrial motion by Milgard to exclude certain expert testimony, while granting, in part, motion for summary judgment. Additional in limine motions filed by the company, regarding evidence and testimonies pertaining to medical expenses, loss of household service and claims for loss of earnings, profits and earning capacity, were later denied—some as late as February 7, 2019. A trial by jury began February 27.

Under California law, “[a] product has a manufacturing defect if it differs from the manufacturer’s intended result or from other ostensibly identical units of the same product line. A product has a manufacturing defect if the product as manufactured does not conform to the manufacturer’s design.” Represented by Malcolm D. Schick, of G&P Schick, in San Diego, and T. Kelly Cox, of Gray and Prouty in Orange, Calif., a motion by Milgard for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ manufacturing defect claim was granted, following argument that the company is entitled to such a judgment, because, “there is no dispute that summary judgment on any alleged manufacturing defect should be granted.” In support of its argument, representation for Milgard suggested that the plaintiffs, “only seek to advance their claims under ‘design defect’ and ‘failure to warn’ theories”—farther suggesting that Mathis is a “sophisticated user,” and thus should be barred from raising a failure to warn claim.

On day six of the trial, the jury resumed deliberations at 9:02 a.m., only to return a notice at 1:59 p.m. of deadlock. A mistrial was declared, with a follow-up status conference scheduled for April 2, 2019.

Official court transcripts for opening statements and individual testimonies have yet to be released.

When contacted by DWM, officials for Milgard declined to comment on the case.

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