Heyl Royster

Product Liability

Presenting a clear, reasoned, and understandable presentation of complex issues to level the playing field.

The successful defense of product liability cases requires a clear understanding of engineering and scientific issues and a close working relationship with the defendant and experts. It requires the ability to present sophisticated scientific concepts in terms that the jury will understand while also partnering with clients to develop successful defense and litigation strategies. Heyl Royster represents leading corporations, both foreign and domestic, in a wide range of product liability cases providing our product liability team with extensive experience in these cases and a progressive agenda to level the playing field.



  • Agricultural equipment
  • Aircraft
  • Athletic equipment
  • Automotive
  • Building/Construction products
  • Consumer products
  • Elevators/Escalators
  • Firearms
  • Industrial machinery
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Recreational vehicles and equipment
  • Toxic torts



Our Product Liability team has significant experience and involvement in professional associations, including the International Association of Defense Counsel, Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, Lawyers for Civil Justice, and the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel.



Heyl Royster's diverse experience in product liability and skilled team of attorneys understand how to present complex issues to level the playing field. Whether consulting with attorneys to formulate the best strategy to move forward, assess risk, or provide due diligence, Heyl Royster's Product Liability team is ready to help you with your legal needs.

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Stone v. MiTek Industries, Circuit Court, Tazewell County, Illinois – Strict product liability case involving the manufacture and design of a roof truss press, a one-hundred-foot long machine comprised of work tables that a gantry rolled roof trusses on. The 19-year-old plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries, including an above-knee amputation of his left leg. The jury returned a verdict within our pretrial evaluation.

Thornton v. Mono Mfg. Co., 99 Ill. App. 3d 722, 425 N.E.2d 522 (2d Dist. 1981) – First Illinois case to interpret and apply the newly enacted statute of repose for products liability cases.

Galindo v. Riddell, Inc. and Bailey & Himes, Circuit Court, Illinois – Successfully defended (dismissed with prejudice without payment after three weeks of jury trial) a products liability case brought by a quadriplegic against the manufacturer and distributor of a football helmet.  

Main v. Ballymore, Circuit Court, Illinois – Obtained a not-guilty verdict for the manufacturer of a rollable ladder in a strict liability claim.

Pennington v. R.D. Werner, Circuit Court, Illinois – Obtained a not guilty verdict in a strict liability claim for the manufacturer of an aluma-plank scaffold after a worker fell.

Dukes v. J.I. Case, Circuit Court, Illinois – Established a product manufacturer's right to bring a contribution action against the employer for that employer's negligence in connection with an injury to an employee.

Coleman v. Caterpillar Tractor Company, Circuit Court, Illinois – Successfully defended Caterpillar in product liability action, alleging defective equipment which cost the plaintiff the sight of one eye.

Biggers v. Hollymatic, Circuit Court, Illinois – Defended product manufacturer in action by an employee of Wendy's for injuries which consisted of partial amputation of two fingers. Obtained 75% assumption of risk by the plaintiff and received a contribution for 99.7625% of the remainder against the plaintiff's employer.

Rogers v. Gould, Inc., et al.,  Obtained favorable settlement (low seven figures) in product liability case brought against battery manufacturer after battery explosion resulted in blindness, disfigurement, and brain damage. 

National Bank of Bloomington v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 235 Ill. App. 3d 697, 600 N.E.2d 1275 (4th Dist. 1992) – Manufacturer is not obligated to warn of an obvious defect.

Barron v. Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd., 965 F.2d 195 (7th Cir. 1992) – Under Florida conflict of laws principles, North Carolina Law, rather than Illinois law, applied to tort action arising from automobile accident occurring in North Carolina. However, the plaintiff was a citizen of Illinois who was visiting her sister in North Carolina when the accident occurred and was living in Illinois when the action was brought. Defendant automobile manufacturer was not a citizen of North Carolina. North Carolina's common-law rulemaking evidence of seat belt use inadmissible in civil actions was a substantive rule that could be applied to federal diversity action; North Carolina's rulemaking evidence of seat belt use objectionable did not apply to the manufacturer's evidence that the automobile was equipped with seat belts, offered to show that manufacturer had been reasonable in deciding to not make sunroof out of laminated glass.

Barron v. Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd., 716 F. Supp. 377 (C.D. Ill. 1989), aff'd, 965 F.2d 195 (7th Cir. 1992) – Plaintiff's count in strict liability alleged that the defendant's use of a tempered glass sunroof created an ultra-hazardous condition when the vehicle left the manufacturer's control and that the sunroof shattered when the vehicle rolled over, causing the Plaintiff to be seriously injured when she was ejected from the vehicle. Even though North Carolina did not recognize the doctrine of strict tort liability, the plaintiff's claim was not foreclosed under negligence or breach of implied warranty theories based on allegations that the automobile was not crashworthy or that its condition enhanced the accident victim's injuries.

Barron v. Ford Motor Co., Jury Trial, U.S.D.C., Central District of Illinois – We served as co-counsel with Baker & McKenzie on a product liability action in which the plaintiff was a passenger in a Ford Escort, which her sister was driving. Plaintiff, a 27-year-old with paraplegia from the waist down, was ejected from the vehicle during a rollover accident. She claimed the sunroof and the vehicle's retention system were defectively designed, that Ford breached its implied warranty of merchantability and that the vehicle was not crashworthy. Plaintiff asked the jury for between $6 and $7 million. Result: Not guilty.

Cross v. Ainsworth Seed Co.  Dismissal with prejudice obtained and sustained on appeal of the unique issue of first impression: Statute of repose barring products liability actions against defendants who, for more than ten years, had had nothing to do with design, planning, supervision, or management of construction or improvement to real property was not unconstitutional special legislation and did not violate due process and equal protection clauses of Federal Constitution. Statute of repose in products liability actions was reenacted without a savings clause and, thus, would be given retroactive effect and act as a bar to actions premised on defects in design in construction before 1979 after.

Baldwin v. R.D. Werner, Circuit Court, Illinois   Obtained a not-guilty verdict for an aluminum ladder manufacturer when the plaintiff fell, sustaining a triple leg fracture and shoulder dislocation.

In re: Guardianship of Babb, 162 Ill. 2d 153, 642 N.E.2d 1195 (1994) – Successfully overturned established Illinois law, resulting in a ban on the use of loan receipts to avoid contribution under the Illinois Contribution Act.

Oak State Products, Inc. v. Ecolab, Inc., 755 F. Supp. 235 (C.D. Ill. 1991)  Key appellate decision on applying the Moorman Doctrine is that it does not preclude all actions relative to contracts for professional services. In addition, Uniform Commercial Code does not preempt all express warranties in service contracts. Express warranties can exist in service contracts, and there is a cause of action under Illinois law for breach of express warranty in a service contract.

Anderson v. GROWMARK, Inc., et al.  Successfully defended ($67K verdict) large agribusiness cooperative in six-week product liability trial involving the death of racehorses from the contaminated feed in which plaintiffs claimed property damage of $1.8M and past and future lost profits of $27-55M.  

Anderson v. Spoon River F.S., Inc., 323 Ill. App. 3d 1162, 800 N.E.2d 892 (3d Dist. 2001) – Denied plaintiffs' attempt to vacate jury verdict in products liability action.

Veltman v. Employers Mutual Casualty, Circuit Court, Will County, Illinois – In what is believed to be the first spoliation case tried after the Illinois Supreme Court's opinion of Boyd v. Travelers Insurance, a directed verdict was obtained for Employer's Mutual Casualty in connection with the loss of the quick coupler valve which was allegedly defective, causing an 18 years old employee to be blinded after exposure to anhydrous ammonia. The case was tried in two phases. The first phase focused on the product liability allegations against the maker of the quick coupler valve. In contrast, the second phase revolved around the loss of evidence and whether that loss impaired the parties' ability to adequately present their cases.

Hilst v. General Motors Corp., 305 Ill. App. 3d 792, 713 N.E.2d 99 (3d Dist. 1999) – Affirmed use of jury instruction on alternative design in product liability action.

Decesari v. Tilley Ladders Co.  Successfully defended (no-liability verdict) ladder manufacturer in a products liability one-week jury trial case in which a ladder collapsed, resulting in a permanent disability of the plaintiff. 

Long v. Cottrell, Inc., 982-10046, U.S.D.C., E.D. Mo – Plaintiff was an auto hauler who allegedly sustained a back injury while untying a truck on a car carrier made by Cottrell. Defense verdict.

Doman v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., 355 Ill. App. 3d 1198, 885 N.E.2d 584 (3d Dist. 2005) – Affirmed dismissal of punitive damages claims in a product liability case.

Probasco v. Ford Motor Co., 182 F. Supp. 2d 701 (C.D. Ill. 2002) – Application of federal rule to issue relating to punitive damages, rather than Illinois procedural rule that governed punitive damages, was warranted in motorist's lawsuit against automobile manufacturer that alleged various causes of action; although the manufacturer asserted that disregarding state rule would result in forum shopping, application of state rule was not necessary to prevent forum shopping and federal law promoted same policies of state rule.

Cornett v. Gromann Service Company-Retail v. Caterpillar Inc., 227 Ill. App. 3d 148 – Third Party Complaint for Contribution against Caterpillar was dismissed as time-barred under the product liability statute of repose. 

Longstreet v. Cottrell, Inc. 374 Ill. App. 3d 549, 871 N.E.2d 72 (5th Dist. 2007) – The deceased party's estate cannot introduce the discovery deposition of the deceased party at trial as an exception to the hearsay rule.

Mason v. Smithkline Beecham Corp.,546 F. Supp. 2d 618 (C.D. Ill. 2008), rev'd, 596 F.3d 387 (7th Cir. 2010) – Summary judgment entered in pharmaceutical product liability case.

Bowling & Amesquita v. Flavors of North America v. Frutarom USA, Mediation, 2nd Chair – Regarding product liability in popcorn lung case.

Cunningham v. Yazoo Manufacturing Co. – Successfully defended (no-liability verdict) the manufacturer of the riding mower, which was overturned, resulting in amputation in a one-week jury trial.

Opstein v. Dr. Richard Calhoun  Successfully defended (no-liability verdict) a veterinarian in a one-week jury trial alleging malpractice in destroying a valuable racehorse without obtaining permission of the owner.  

Mwesigwa v. DAP, Inc. 4:08CV605 JCH, 2010 WL 979697 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 12, 2010), aff'd, 637 F.3d 884 (8th Cir. 2011) – Summary judgment affirmed in a wrongful death case. The court held that the Federal Hazardous Substances Act preempts any state law cause of action based upon a theory that a product's label should have included warnings not required by the FHSA.

Rogers v. Gould – Defense of products liability claim for claimed explosion causing blindness.

O'Rourke v. Samsung (2001), United States District Court, Central District, Rock Island Division – Obtained summary judgment for our client, the seller of television satellite dishes, set-top boxes, and software developers, in defense of a complex commercial claim involving alleged faulty software code and warranty claims. Court found that the governing state law precluded recovery under the Uniform Commercial Code for incidental and consequential damages, and the contractual limitation was enforceable.

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