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ARTICLE ID 9203

$________ Failure to incorporate device to automatically prevent mold halves of plastic injection mold machine from closing when access door to mold is open - limit switch included to automatically shut down machine when door is open allegedly defeated by foreseeable actions of co-worker - amputation of dominant arm at elbow.

U.S. DIST., Newark, NEW JERSEY

In this products liability action, the 58-year-old plaintiff worker contended that the molding machine manufactured by the defendant was defective because the limit switch included to prevent the machine from operating when the rear door of the machine is open, could be easily defeated, and because it lacked an interlock safety system which would prevent the mold halves from closing when the rear door was opened. As a result of the alleged defect in design, the plaintiff suffered the traumatic amputation of his right dominant arm at the elbow when the molds closed as he was attempting to extricate plastic fragments after opening the rear door.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was attempting to dislodge plastic pieces which had become stuck in the mold of the plastic injection molding machine. The plaintiff contended that because of the excessive noise from other nearby machines, he did not realize that the machine had not shut down as he opened the door and immediately inserted his hand. The limit switch supplied by the defendant manufacturer, which it was undisputed would automatically shut down the power and prevent the mold halves from closing if functioning, was situated at the bottom of a chamber inside the rear door and was covered by a sheath. The plaintiff contended that it was likely that another employee had tied the switch down for convenience or production purposes, and the plaintiff argued that such an act was foreseeable.

The plaintiff testified that he did not notice that the limit switch was by-passed because it was covered by a sheath. The plaintiff’s engineering expert contended that the limit switch should have been placed in an area to which accessibility would be limited, minimizing the chances of a co-worker defeating it.

The expert further asserted that the defendant could have designed the limit switch in such a manner that it would not be possible for an unauthorized by-pass. The plaintiff’s expert contended that the defendant should have included a system in which the mechanical device would automatically descend when the rear door was open. The plaintiff maintained that he could not reach the fragments from the front of the machine, that it was foreseeable that a worker would be required to insert his hand from the rear door, and the plaintiff’s expert contended that such a device would have added approximately $________ to the cost of the $________ machine. The evidence disclosed that the employer retained the plaintiff at a different job which he can perform satisfactory at the same salary and the plaintiff made no future economic claims.

The defendant denied that the limit switch had been defeated as alleged by the plaintiff and maintained that since the machine was inspected by an engineer several hours after the incident at which time the switch was not found to be tied down, the plaintiff’s allegations in this regard should not be believed.

The plaintiff countered that the limit switch may have been released by his foreman subsequent to the accident and prior to inspection. The defendant further contended that the plaintiff, who was under time constraints, probably decided to save time by avoiding the necessity to restart the machine through holding the limit switch button down, thereby defeating it, as he attempted to extricate the fragments from the mold, and that his actions in this regard were the sole proximate cause of the incident. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $________.

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