One of the six blades of an agricultural rotary cutter used for cutting down small trees and bushes broke into two pieces while the blades were rotating. One piece was hurled from the cutter and struck a young farmer, who had been operating the machine, causing a near fatal leg injury.
In the ensuing litigation against the manufacturers and marketer of the machine each litigant retained a metallurgist and other experts. The metallurgists jointly directed laboratory work on the broken blade conducted at an independent laboratory according to a protocol which they developed and which was approved by the court.
As a result of the laboratory work the present authors, working for the Plaintiffs, concluded that failure of the blade occurred because it contained quench cracks introduced when it was manufactured. The Defendants’ metallurgists concluded that the blade had been misassembled onto the machine and, as a result, had failed by fatigue. Eventually, the case was set for a jury trial in a Circuit Court in rural Kentucky. The jury found for the Plaintiffs and awarded them $5.9 million in damages. Part of this judgement was later reversed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the case was then settled without a second trial under terms which were not revealed.
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