Pennsylvania Verdicts

Find out about the most important recent Pennsylvania cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Allegheny, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Subscribe to VerdictSearch Pennsylvania for access to all Pennsylvania verdictsPricing Options

Faulty holster design caused gun to fire, claimed trooper

Amount:

$2,600,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Pennsylvania

Venue:

Philadelphia County

Court:

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

hip; leg; other-thigh; other-fatigue; other-gunshot wound; other-physical therapy; other-decreased range of motion; epidermis-numbness; paralysis/quadriplegia-paralysis

Case Type:

Products Liability – Design Defect, Strict Liability; Premises Liability – Res Ipsa Loquitur; Products Liability – Breach of Warranty

Case Name:

Jesse Oleksza v. Glock Inc., Gould & Goodrich Inc., and Markl Supply Co.,
No. 140404069

Date:

October 18, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Jesse Oleksza (Male, 28 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Gerald B. Baldino Jr.;
Sacchetta & Baldino;
Media,
PA,
for
Jesse Oleksza

Plaintiff Expert(s):

L. Levin; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Gerald B. Baldino Jr. ■ John Finor; Firearms; Eagleville,
PA called by:
Gerald B. Baldino Jr. ■ John Bassani; Ph.D.; Engineering; Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Gerald B. Baldino Jr. ■ Michael Cohen; M.D.; Neurology; Bala Cynwyd,
PA called by:
Gerald B. Baldino Jr.

Defendant(s):

Glock Inc., 

Markl Supply Co., 

Gould & Goodrich Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Todd B. Narvol;
Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP;
Harrisburg,
PA,
for
Markl Supply Co. ■ Mark P. Merlini Jr.;
Marks, O’Neill, O’Brien, Doherty & Kelly, P.C.;
Philadelphia,
PA,
for
Gould & Goodrich Inc. ■ None reported;

for
Glock Inc. ■ Mark G. Giannotti;
Marks, O’Neill, O’Brien, Doherty & Kelly, P.C.;
Philadelphia,
PA,
for
Gould & Goodrich Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

David Young III;
Holsters;
Fayetteville,
NC called by:
Mark P. Merlini Jr., Mark G. Giannotti ■ Keith Wapner;
Orthopedic Surgery;
Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Mark P. Merlini Jr., Mark G. Giannotti ■ Richard Ernest;
Firearms;
Fort Worth,
TX called by:
Mark P. Merlini Jr., Mark G. Giannotti ■ Richard Temple;
Engineering;
Chicago,
IL called by:
Mark P. Merlini Jr., Mark G. Giannotti

Insurer(s):

QBE Holdings Inc. primary carrier for Gould & Goodrich Inc.;
American International Group Inc. excess carrier for Gould & Goodrich Inc.

Facts:

On June 7, 2012, plaintiff Jesse Oleksza, 28, a state trooper, suffered an accidental gunshot wound to his right leg, in Northampton County. Oleksza had returned his police cruiser to the station and was attempting to retrieve his duty bag from the vehicle’s seat, while he stood outside. He had a set of keys in his right hand, and the bag was beside the vehicle’s shotgun. While Oleksza was leaning over, his Glock 37 semiautomatic pistol, which had been in a double-retention holster on his right hip, went off. He suffered multiple leg injuries. The gun was manufactured by Glock Inc., the holster by Gould & Goodrich Inc., and the holster was supplied by Markl Supply Co. Oleksza sued Glock, Gould & Goodrich, and Markl Supply (Glock was dismissed by stipulation, prior to trial). He alleged claims under a theory of products liability, including negligence, design defect, strict liability, and breach of implied warranty. (A failure-to-warn claim was later withdrawn.) Oleksza’s counsel maintained that the Gould & Goodrich holster was defective by failing to properly protect the trigger. A foreign object, likely a key, was able to lodge itself in the holster and cause the gun to fire, according to Oleksza’s counsel. In addition to the keys Oleksza was holding, there was a set of keys attached to his duty bag and another set attached to his duty belt. Counsel cited an internal affairs investigation which cleared Oleksza of any wrongdoing, and an analysis from the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services also confirmed that the gun could be discharged by inserting a key into the holster and then applying pressure. Counsel showed that other manufacturers sold holsters that had superior trigger protection. Oleksza’s expert in firearms and tool-mark inspected the Glock 37 and the holster, reviewed the state forensics analysis, and performed testing on other holsters. The expert concluded that the holster’s defective design allowed a foreign object to enter the holster, and in doing so, created a rearward force on the trigger. Typically, five-and-a-half pounds of force is needed to pull a trigger, but in this instance, the foreign object required less pressure and acted as a fulcrum, with the gun’s trigger only needing a tap to fire. According to the expert, the holster violated the consumer-expectations test and the risk-utility test, both of which are tests incorporated into products liability cases. The expert cited alternative designs from other manufacturers and presented another Gould & Goodrich holster which had a double retention, but with a different style and better trigger protection. Oleksza’s counsel asserted that Markl Supply, as the seller of the holster, was strictly liable. Gould & Goodrich maintained that the holster was not defective and cited a state-police investigation that found no holster defect. Moreover, Oleksza failed to meet his burden of proving that that the holster was defective, its counsel argued. According to the manufacturer, the holster design had to provide accessibility, by allowing the user to draw the gun quickly, while protecting the trigger, in a way that does not impair proper drawing of the gun. Gould & Goodrich met both of those standards, its counsel maintained. Counsel for Markl Supply stated that the company was only a downstream seller of the product. Just as it had done in the past for the state police, it placed orders for the holsters from Gould & Goodrich.

Injury:

When Oleksza’s gun fired, the bullet hit his right thigh, transected the peroneal nerve (a branch of the sciatic nerve, which runs through the lower leg to the foot and toes), and lodged in his right foot. Oleksza was taken to an emergency room. He was admitted and monitored for five days. It was determined that removing the bullet was too risky, because it could cause permanent nerve damage (also, the hospital was not equipped to deal with a peroneal nerve injury). About a week later, Oleksza presented to an orthopedic surgeon, who removed the bullet and performed a nerve transposition by replacing the transected peroneal nerve with a cadaver nerve. In the ensuing years, Oleksza treated with more than 300 sessions of physical therapy. He suffers from residual nerve injury and an inability to turn his right foot outward. He sought to recover a workers’ compensation lien of $249,000. Oleksza’s surgeon described the injury and the surgery, saying that there was a one in 100 chance of restoring nerve function in his leg. An expert in neurology testified about Oleksza’s lasting neurological deficits and how he has a 5 percent impairment of his right foot. According to the expert, due to overcompensating for his foot, Oleksza developed post-traumatic arthritis in his left hip, which will progress in the future. Oleksza, given his injury, had the option of remaining out of work and collecting disability benefits, in which case he would have earned more money by not working. However, he chose to return to light duty after eight months and earned less money. At the time of trial, Oleksza worked full duty after meeting all of the physical qualifications. According to Oleksza, he experiences stabbing pain, electrical shocks, numbness, and tingling in his foot. He further experiences fatigue in his leg, which causes his foot to roll and for him to trip. He sought damages for past and future pain and suffering. Gould & Goodrich maintained that Oleksza had made a good recovery from his injuries.

Result:

The jury found that Gould & Goodrich was negligent in designing the gun holster and that its negligence was a factual cause of harm to Oleksza. According to jurors, the holster was defective under the consumer-expectations test and risk-utility test (thereby finding Markl Supply liable), and the holster’s defectiveness under the tests was a factual cause of harm to Oleksza. Gould & Goodrich breached an implied warranty of fitness, and the breach was a factual cause of harm to Oleksza, jurors found. The jury determined that Oleksza did not use the holster in an unintended way. No negligence was found against Oleksza, who was determined to receive $2.6 million.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Daniel J. Anders

Demand:

$3,000,000

Offer:

$500,000 (by Gould & Goodrich Inc.)

Trial Length:

7
 days

Trial Deliberations:

3.5
 hours

Jury Vote:

12-0

Jury Composition:

4 male/ 8 female

Post Trial:

Counsel for Gould & Goodrich filed motions on various issues, including a request for non-suit that should have allegedly been granted and an alleged court error in instructing the jury on res ipsa loquitur and malfunction theory.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. Glock Inc. was not asked to contribute.