Betts Patterson Mines

Product Liability

Betts Patterson Mines defends product liability clients from a wide spectrum of industries — from makers of heavy industrial equipment to high technology manufacturers.  At the industrial end of the spectrum, our clients include manufacturers of fire engines, forging presses, powered industrial trucks, inter-modal freight hitches, LPG valves, elevators, meat-packing, mining, logging, construction and other heavy equipment.

Our high technology clients include manufacturers of medical imaging equipment, computer systems, fire training trailers, technologically complex medical devices and pharmaceutical products.  Between these industrial and high technology poles are manufacturers of such household items as water filters, toasters, furnaces and air conditioners, bicycles, and paints and coatings.

We also defend claims arising from exposure to alleged toxic substances, including pesticides through application and groundwater contamination, exposure to gases and other air-borne irritants or substances, food-borne illnesses or injuries and similar claims.  We have represented multiple defendants in asbestos litigation since those cases were first filed in Washington in the early 1980s.

Our attorneys are active in the Product Liability Advisory Council, the Defense Research Institute, the International Association of Defense Counsel, the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel and the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers.  The firm is also a member of The Harmonie Group, an association of independent law firms that provide legal services to the risk and claim service industries with the mission of providing a forum for discussion between member representatives and the risk and claim service industries and improving the legal services provided by member firms through the sharing of expertise and the use of technology. 

Representative Cases

  • Representation of the manufacturer of a fire engine which did not pump upon arrival at a fire.  Pre-litigation investigation and inspections have been undertaken, and claims on behalf of five individuals killed in the fire are anticipated.
  • Represented the manufacturer of mining equipment that was involved in a multiple death mining accident in Chile.  The case involved conflict of laws issues and the application of Chilean Mining Laws and enforcement proceedings as well as disputed issues of fact regarding who was in control of the operation at the time of the accident.  By establishing a substantial risk of a defense verdict because the mine owner had taken custody of the mining equipment from the United States manufacturer and was in control of the operation at the time of the accident, a favorable settlement was achieved.
  • Defended a national fitness equipment manufacturer in a product liability matter.  The minor, mentally impaired plaintiff sued the defendant, his school district and several of its employees for personal injuries to his eye, including permanent vision loss, allegedly caused as a result of being struck in the eye with our client's resistance tubing product.  As a result of intense work with experts and depositions of supervisors and school district employees, we were able to settle plaintiff's multi-million dollar claim for less than $100,000.
  • Defense of glass tempering business in case where squash glass court shattered upon impact.  Plaintiff sustained laceration to leg and claimed arrhythmia caused by sudden blood loss and trauma, necessitating several cardioversions and medication. Defense was able to raise strong defenses to both liability arguments, resulting in favorable settlement for client.
  • Defended a Canadian leaf spring manufacturer against a defective product claim on a heavy truck leaf spring that broke in half while in service on a truck. The leaf spring was left on the roadway, kicked up by a passing car and thrown through windshield of another vehicle, severely and permanently injuring the driver. The driver sued the leaf spring manufacturer along with the trucking company, alleging as to the manufacturer that the leaf spring broke because of metallurgical problems in the manufacturing process, which created weaknesses in the center of the leaf spring and caused the fracture. We were able to demonstrate that the leaf spring's fracture was due to the serious lack of maintenance by the company that operated the truck and that there were no metallurgical deficiencies in the leaf spring. Based on those findings, we successfully settled the case at mediation for significantly less than the original demand of millions of dollars.


  • Defended a company sued for product failure when its product allegedly caused damage to the plaintiffs’ residence.  Plaintiffs’ claims were settled on terms consistent with the products’ warranties and at a substantial cost benefit to our client. 
  • Defended a manufacturer of medical imaging devices.  Plaintiff brought an action for injuries she sustained when an x-ray table lowered on her foot.  The court granted our motion to dismiss, holding that the plaintiff failed to exercise due diligence in discovering facts that were salient to her claims and that her claims were time-barred.
  • Defended a bicycle manufacturer against the allegation that the design of the front wheel quick release mechanism was defective.  Plaintiff alleged that the  front wheel loosened, causing the bicycle to be uncontrollable resulting in disabling injuries and loss of employment as a nuclear radiologist.  We were able to prove that the accident was caused by the front tire losing traction in gravel and not due to a failure of the release mechanism and that plaintiff was going to be fired without regard to the time loss during recovery from injuries.  The case was favorably settled.
  • Represented the manufacturer of a linseed oil based stain that was alleged to have spontaneously combusted, resulting in a large fire loss to a structure.  The plaintiff argued that the label warnings were insufficient to alert the product user of the safety precautions required in order to avoid pyrolysis and combustion.  After developing evidence supporting the theory that the fire was started by the homeowner intentionally ignoring the warning and improper disposal of the product soaked applicator, the case was favorably settled.
  • Represented the manufacturer of a meat processing machine that was alleged to have been defective, resulting in an amputation injury.  The case was dismissed on summary judgment and affirmed on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.
  • Represented the manufacturer of an electrical switch that was alleged to have been defective, resulting in the  malfunction of a floor buffer and injury to plaintiff.  The case was dismissed on summary judgment and upheld by The Washington State Court of Appeals.
  • Defended an auto parts manufacturer in a wrongful death suit.  Plaintiff alleged removal of used parts exposed him to asbestos fibers, which caused him to develop mesothelioma.  Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that any exposure is sufficient to establish liability, and dismissed the case holding that Plaintiff must show that exposures were sufficient to substantially contribute to his disease.
  • Defended a company sued for over $1 million because its product allegedly caused damage once applied to the product manufactured by the plaintiff.  Plaintiff eventually agreed to a settlement which resulted in the plaintiff paying our client amounts due and owing, and dismissing the case. 
  • Defense of failure to warn claims against a distiller sued in one of the first claims against alcoholic beverage companies alleging fetal alcohol syndrome as a result of a pregnant woman’s consumption of alcohol.  Plaintiff dismissed the case after a jury found against a different plaintiff in a similar case.
  • Represented a trailer manufacturer in a wrongful death case involving four defendants.  Plaintiffs alleged that our client installed a defective wheel hub assembly improperly, leading to the wheel separating from the axle and colliding with an oncoming van, killing a passenger.  We were able to demonstrate that improper maintenance was the primary cause of the wheel separation and settled at mediation for a fraction of the original $3 million demand.
  • Defended nationally and internationally recognized manufacturers of products used in the home and in commercial industry against claims alleging exposure to benzene.  Through extensive motion practice, we obtained case management orders which required plaintiffs to specifically plead with particularity the product to which they were exposed, the dates when such exposure occurred, and where such exposure allegedly occurred.  Plaintiffs’ claims against our clients were subsequently dismissed through agreement or on summary judgment because plaintiffs were unable to comply with this requirement.
  • Defense of agricultural chemical manufacturers against claims for both physical injury and for crop damage allegedly resulting from the use and application of pesticides.  Claims defended include groundwater contamination claims asserted in Washington, California and Hawaii by residents near application sites; claims by cities and water districts for contamination of drinking water aquifers; and clean up claims brought by the State of Washington under novel theories of liability.  The Washington neighbors’ claims were tried to a defense verdict; claims by 350 Honolulu residents were dismissed on summary judgment; and the remaining claims were favorably settled.
  • Defense of manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, including mechanical heart valves, prosthetic joints and implants, spinal stabilizers, penile prostheses, latex gloves, Rezulin®, hormone replacement therapy and phentermine in courts throughout the Northwest.
  • Defense of numerous product liability and crop damage claims from exposure to agricultural pesticides.  In one case, the District Court granted summary judgment, holding in part that comment k to § 402A applied to pesticides and that plaintiffs’ design defect claims were preempted under FIFRA, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
  • Representation of a tobacco manufacturer against product liability and cost recovery claims brought by Regence (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) Companies and Washington Association of Public Hospitals seeking recovery of health care expenses related to use of tobacco products.
  • Defense of a large regional meat processor in an e-coli case that was successfully tried to verdict, and defense of multiple claims for the presence of bones, wire, or other substances in poultry or meat products provided by our clients.