Published: April 1, 2016
By: Richard Ogrodowski
Like many people in Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2011, John Borzik decided to perform maintenance work on a motorhome he owned. While trying to find the source of an antifreeze leak, Mr. Borzik positioned himself under his motorhome on his back near the right side rear axle. During the maintenance work, the frame of the motorhome dropped onto Mr. Borzik’s head and chest. He tried using his cellphone to call for help but tragically died from asphyxiation. A Pennsylvania State Trooper performed an investigation and found that the motorhome “had a faulty pressure release valve that serviced the air suspension system.”
Later, Mr. Borzik’s sister, who served as the personal representative and plaintiff, filed a wrongful death and survival action lawsuit against several defendants. Rapchak v. Haldex Brake Products Corp., U.S. Dist. Ct. W.D. of Pa.; Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-1307. After discovery, the only claim that remained was a products liability claim against the manufacturer (Haldex Brake Products Corp.) of the height control valve, which had been used in the air suspension system of the motorhome. The manufacturer recently filed a motion to exclude the opinion of plaintiff’s expert that a screen filter would have prevented debris from entering into the height control valve and thereby would have prevented the valve from sticking open and releasing air. The manufacturer also asked the court to find in its favor on a motion for summary judgment, which would result in the claims against the manufacturer being dismissed and the case being closed.
On March 16, 2016, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, denied both motions filed by the manufacturer. Rapchak v. Haldex Brake Products Corp., 2016 WL 1019534 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 15, 2016). The court found that the expert used a reliable methodology in reaching his opinion regarding the height control valve in causing the accidental death. The court also found that there were issues of material fact regarding whether the height control valve was in a defective condition. Therefore, the court concluded a jury must decide whether the height control valve was defective and caused the wrongful death of Mr. Borzik.
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