Carmen was a long-time employee in a wood processing plant in Hanover, VA where she worked around sophisticated food processing machines manufactured by Eagle Manufacturing and controlled by Time Savers, an electric control company. Her job was to unblock the wood that would jam when it processed through a sawing and finishing machine. At her job station, there were no guardrails or kill switches to shut down the machines in the event that one of her garments became stuck in the multiple roller conveyor belts where the woods were processed through.
On October 19, 2015, when a jam occurred, she had to move around the large conveyor belt roller machine in order to unjam some wood that was near the finisher machine. As she reached out to unjam, her sweatshirt became caught in rollers, pulling her in, the right side of her body, and her arm into the machine causing serious injury to her arm, shoulder, and facial lacerations and scars. The industrial accident almost severed her arm.
Fortunately, with prompt emergency services and extensive rehabilitation, her arm was saved. She remained however, with permanent disability of her right arm and the case became both a workers’ compensation and a product liability matter. The basis for the product liability lawsuit laid on the fact that there should have been protocols installed to ensure the safety of the worker using these machines. Such protocols ranged from increased guards or guard rails around the conveyor belt machine, added controls for stopping the machine in an emergency when the worker would have to walk around or lean in to unjam it, or an electric beam could have been placed to shut off immediately when a human body part was detected. In this situation, the employer placed productivity of the line to keep moving and processing wood as a higher priority.
The companies were served in a timely manner after resolving the workers’ compensation case and neither answered the lawsuit. Subsequently, the Powell Law Group obtained a judgement for both companies in the Richmond City Circuit Court and the judge awarded $850,000 with interest dating from the date of the accident. Additionally, a judgement was also obtained in Ohio, where Eagle Manufacturing is headquartered. The Powell Law Group is currently seeking to collect on this judgement for their client.
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