Plaintiff Wins Verdict in Products Liability Suit Behling vs. Jetway Systems $925,723 Jury Verdict

Pennsylvania Law Weekly


An Allegheny County jury awarded $925,723 in a strict products liability case Stemming from allegations that a Jetway Systems people mover was defective.

On Nov. 7, 1996, plaintiff Gary Behling was working as a member of the ground crew at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport when his left foot was caught under the wheel of a people mover – the mobile device that connects to a commercial airliner to allow passengers to board or deplane an aircraft. Consequently, Behling’s left foot was crushed, and he was taken to the hospital.

Doctors at the hospital stabilized Behling and suggested amputating his leg. Behling sought a second opinion at a hospital in California.

He underwent three surgeries and returned to light duty work in January 1998, but continued problems with his left leg required him to undergo a below the knee amputation in November 2002.

Behling brought claims of negligence, strict products liability and breach of implied warranty in 1998 against Jetway Systems. Additionally, Behling’s spouse, Susan, claimed a loss of consortium.

At trial, the only claim considered was strict products liability.

Attorneys for Behling argued that the people mover that injured Behling was defective, noting that it had co be operated blindly because the driver could not see the tires or people below the machine. Contending that other people movers had television monitors, communication devices, or wheel guards to monitor the space below the machine, Behling asserted that Jecway’s product had inherent safety defects.

The defense contended that the people mover was not defective and that liability did not rest with Jetway. Counsel argued that the device was properly designed and equipped with the appropriate warning and safety devices, making it safe to operate for its intended use.

A 12-member jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the plaintiff after approximately five hours of deliberations.

The defense filed post-trial motions, which were denied by the trial court. The defense is currently planning an appeal to the Superior Court.

COURT Common Pleas, Allegheny
CASE NUMBER G.D. 98-17380
JUDGE Cynthia A. Baldwin
INJURIES Below-the-knee amputation of the left leg
ATTORNEY(S) Jon R. Perry, Neil R. Rosen, Renee A. Metal
Rosen Louik Perry, Pittsburgh.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY(S) Eric P. Reif, Pietragallo Bosick & Gordon, Pittsburgh.