Helmsing Leach wins discovery battle before Alabama Supreme Court in product liability case.

Helmsing Leach lawyers Joseph P. H. Babington and D. Andrew Stivender teamed up with Daniel R. Lanier (dlanier@milesstockbridge.com), principal of Miles & Stockbridge, P.C. and United States Coordinating Counsel for Black & Decker Corporation, to obtain a favorable ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court in Ex parte Delta International Machinery Corp., ___ So. 3d ___, 2011 WL 3211098 (Ala. July 29, 2011).  The Court held that a plaintiff in a products liability action against Helmsing’s client, saw manufacturer Delta International Machinery (“Delta”), was not entitled to inspect and test “flesh sensing” technology created by a joint venture in which Delta was a member.  The plaintiff had been injured years earlier when his hand contacted the blade of a lightweight portable bench-top saw made by Delta.  He alleged in his lawsuit that the saw was defective under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine because it did not incorporate technology that can sense human flesh contacting the blade and retract the blade in time to avoid injury. 


Delta had been part of a joint venture which created flesh sensing technology the plaintiff sought to inspect and test.  After the trial court entered an order allowing inspection and testing, Delta filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, asserting that the technology was irrelevant to the plaintiff’s claim and also highly confidential.  Agreeing, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no evidence indicating that the technology could have been incorporated into a lightweight bench-top saw like the one the plaintiff used.  The Court also rejected any argument that the manufacturer had a duty to create flesh sensing technology and incorporate it into the subject saw when it was made.  Finally, the Court determined that the joint venture’s technology was a trade secret entitled to heightened protection from discovery.  Accordingly, the Court issued the writ and directed the trial court to vacate its order allowing inspection and testing.