Portable Toilet - Expert Opinion Supports $5 Million Settlement Expert Article

Facilities Engineer, Brian O’Donel was retained by plaintiff’s counsel to investigate an incident in which Donald Adams III was injured in a portable toilet that tipped over, leaving him paralyzed. Mr. O’Donel’s opinion supported the plaintiff’s argument that the portable toilet was installed in an unsafe manner and failed to include/utilize stabilization spikes that would have prevented the unit from tipping.

Man Paralyzed in Portable-Toilet Prank Gets $5M

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on February 6, 2014 12:42 PM

A man who was paralyzed in a portable-toilet tip-over prank is set to receive $5 million to settle his personal injury lawsuit.

The prank left Donald Adams III, of Pennsylvania, a quadriplegic. He sued the pranksters—his two cousins-in-law—along with the portable-toilet company and the toilet’s installer for his injuries, according to The Associated Press.

How did the prank happen and why was the portable-toilet manufacturer named in the suit? 

Tip-Over Prank Goes Awry

What started as an uneventful camping trip turned tragic when Adams’ relatives decided that it’d be funny to prank him while he was using a portable toilet.

The relatives backed up their truck to lock Adams inside the toilet, then shook and banged on the structure, causing it to tip over, the AP reports. Unfortunately, Adams landed on his neck and suffered several serious cervical fractures that left him paralyzed.

Although his cousins-in-law probably didn’t intend to paralyze him, Adams rightfully filed a lawsuit against them for his injuries. Under negligence laws, people generally have a duty to act reasonably. If they breach this duty by acting unreasonably, and those actions cause someone else to be injured, then the actors can be held liable.

Adams’ relatives probably knew that a reasonable person wouldn’t tip over a portable toilet while another person was inside. Regardless, they proceeded with the prank that caused Adams to become paralyzed. So it’s not surprising that they’ve agreed to settle Adams’ lawsuit.

Manufacturer’s Liability

If Adams’ relatives were literally the driving force behind his injuries, why did the manufacturer also get sued?

Adams argued in his lawsuit that Poly-San, the portable-toilet manufacturer, failed to provide spikes for the unit, even though there were holes designed on the base for that purpose, the AP reports.

Manufacturers are required to make sure that their products are free of design defects. This means that if the manufacturer could feasibly have produced a design that would make the product safe to use, but failed to do so, they could be held liable for injuries that result.

A corporate designer from Poly-San admitted in a deposition that the company failed to supply the stakes, The Legal Intelligencer reports. By not supplying stakes, the company didn’t provide all the equipment essential to stabilizing the portable toilet, Adams argued.

Although Adams is set to receive a $5 million settlement, it’s not clear from news reports how much each party will be contributing to the settlement amount.



Featured Expert

Brian O’Donel, Facilities Engineer & Workplace Safety Expert

Brian O’Donel, P.E.

Facilities Engineer & Workplace Safety Expert
Brian is a Facilities Engineering and Workplace Safety expert with 30 years of experience in nearly every aspect of Facilities Management, including Manufacturing and Production; Industrial Equipment… read more.