PORTLAND (AP) – The family of a Sanford man killed in an industrial accident blames the manufacturer of a forklift for a design that allowed the man to become pinned when he backed up under a shelving unit.

An inexpensive adaptation could have corrected a design flaw in the 1989 Crown standup lift truck that killed Thomas Brown, who suffocated after being pinned against the shelves, Terry Garmey, the family’s lawyer, told jurors in U.S. District Court.

Brown was vulnerable to the type of accident that killed him on Aug. 1, 2003, because Crown Equipment Corp. did not share safety information with Brown’s employer, Prime Tanning, Garmey told jurors. The lift was purchased used by Prime.

Crown contends Brown, not the manufacturer, was at fault for the accident.

“He was careless in the operation of that lift truck,” said James Campbell, Crown’s attorney. “That lift truck had nothing whatsoever wrong with it … Mr. Brown tragically drove that truck into that rack because of his carelessness.”

The trial, which started on Tuesday, is expected to focus on expert opinion about the design of the lift truck and the company’s response to safety complaints.

Crown knew of 10 other deaths and 90 serious injuries caused in the same manner as Brown’s, and did not tell Prime Tanning about a way to make the truck safer, Garmey said.

Thomas Brown was backing up the truck when he hit the rack of shelves. The impact knocked his feet off the pedals, automatically engaging an emergency brake. Pinned and unable to move, he died within four minutes, Garmey said.

On the day he died, Brown was hurrying to get out of work so he could celebrate the 30th anniversary of meeting his wife.

Claire Brown is seeking $400,000 for wrongful death and $1.2 million in economic damages, as well as $75,000 in punitive damages.

Garmey said manufacturers like Ohio-based Crown have an obligation to make their products safe. “That’s why coffee grinders don’t work when you take the lid off and why a garage door opener won’t crush a dog.”

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-08-17-06 0947EDT

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