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ARTICLE ID 198865

$________ – PRODUCT LIABILITY – MACHINE GUARDING – FAILURE TO WARN – PLAINTIFF WORKER'S HAND CAUGHT IN PINCH POINT – PLAINTIFF SUFFERS FRACTURE OF RIGHT DISTAL RADIUS, FRACTURES OF SEVERAL FINGERS, DEGLOVING INJURY AND ULNAR NERVE DAMAGE – SKIN GRAFT – PERMANENT FUNCTIONAL AND COSMETIC DEFICITS.

Essex County, NJ

This case involved a female plaintiff, age in her early 30s, whose right hand was caught in a pinch point of a bottling conveyor system as she attempted to place "Tier sheets," or thin sheets of cardboard between levels of product that were on palates. The machine, as manufactured, contained an electric eye system that would shut down the machine if the field was broken. A separate dispenser would be used to automatically feed the tier sheets. The machine was purchased, used, and had been equipped with electric eyes by the manufacturer and was functioning at the plant of the previous owner when purchased.

The plaintiff contended that three of the four defendants, the employer, a leasing company that was set up as the purchaser of the equipment and leased it to the employer, which had a number of the same major shareholders, and a corporation that installed an maintained the machine, and whose chief employee was a major shareholder in the employer corporation, decided to bypass the electric eye in order to avoid shutdown time of the machine. The plaintiff asserted that in order to accomplish the defeat of the interlock, the electrical circuitry had to be modified. These defendants also decided not to purchase a tier dispenser and a worker, such as the plaintiff, would be required to insert the tier sheets.

The plaintiff contended, as to the employer, that the defeat of the safety devices rendered it substantially certain that death or serious injury would occur and that the employer should not have the benefit of the Workers’ Compensation bar. The plaintiff also contended that the leasing company and installation/maintenance company were clearly negligent.

The plaintiff further established that the manufacturer was on the premises on several occasions and was aware of the dangerous modifications. The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s internal protocols provided that if it was aware that its machine was being used with safety features removed, it should issue warnings to the user, including certified letters. This defendant argued that it was doubtful any warnings would have changed the conduct of the co-defendants.

The plaintiff’s right hand and forearm became caught in a pinch point. She suffered fractures of the distal radius and several fingers. She also suffered a degloving injury and ulnar nerve damage. She maintained that she required skin graft surgery with the abdomen and thigh being donor sites. The plaintiff asserted that the permanent cosmetic deficit is very substantial and that she is very self-conscious about the cosmetic injury.

The plaintiff also contended that because of the functional deficit, she is restricted in the extent she can lift and has difficulties with everyday activities.

The plaintiff is able to work.The case settled prior to trial for $________, including $________ from the employer, $________ from the defendant that leased the machine to the employer, $________ from the installer/maintainer, and $________ from the manufacturer.

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