Gillespie v. EdmierAnnotate this Case
Gillespie was working on a dump trailer manufactured and sold by East and leased by his employer. It was loaded with mulch. Using the front cast iron side steps, Gillespie climbed on top of the trailer and lowered himself inside. After leveling the mulch, Gillespie crawled to the front, positioned his right knee on the aluminum cap, placed his left foot on the first step, and attempted to place his right foot on the second step. His hands slid off the top of the trailer, and his left foot slipped, causing him to fall off the stairs. He landed on his feet and felt a sharp pain in his back. He reported his injury before returning to work.
Gillespie alleged that East is strictly liable for, and acted negligently in, designing, manufacturing, and selling a defective and unreasonably dangerous product that lacked adequate safety features; that East failed to warn consumers about foreseeable dangers from unsafe modifications; and that the product did not undergo product testing for safety. In a deposition, Gillespie's expert, Hutter, opined that the steps were defective and unreasonably dangerous; the spacing and width of the steps and the lack of side rails did not comply with the recommended practices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American National Standards Institute, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association.
The circuit court granted the defendant summary judgment, ruling that OSHA does not apply to trailers, that industry standards are not mandatory, and that third-party modifications demonstrated that the trailer was not unreasonably dangerous when it left East’s control. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Hutter’s deposition testimony was sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the trailer was unreasonably dangerous.