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Failure to warn of potential for chain assembly of water treatment facility to move when power is off - Plaintiff standing on four-inch lip of elevated facility rests hand on chain - Failure to provide fixed maintenance platform - hand dragged into point of operation - Partial loss of three fingers on dominant hand.

Hudson County, New Jersey

This products liability action was brought by a plaintiff maintenance employee for a public utility which owned and serviced a water treatment facility. The plaintiff suffered the partial loss of three fingers on his dominant hand when he placed his hand on a chain assembly and the counterweight shifted, causing his hand to be pulled into the point of operation. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings regarding the danger of chain movement even with the machine off. The plaintiff additionally contended that the defendant installer was liable for failing to provide a fixed work platform.

The plaintiff related that he was using a movable platform on rollers to reach the elevated point of the facility where he was required to work. The plaintiff contended that since he had difficulty reaching the work area, he stepped on a four inch lip of the treatment system situated slightly above him. The plaintiff maintained that he rested his left hand on the chain which was situated over an opening of the mechanism when a counterweight shift, causing his hand to be suddenly dragged into the point of operation. The power to the facility was off at the time of the subject accident.

The evidence indicated that the defendant manufacturer had provided the component parts which were installed by the co- defendant installer. The plaintiff contended that the defendant manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings advising that the chain would move under certain circumstances even with the power turned off. The plaintiff additionally maintained that the co-defendant installer should have provided a permanent fixed work platform, obviating the need for the plaintiff to use the lip.

The plaintiff suffered the loss of the distal phalanx of three fingers on the left, dominant hand. The plaintiff has been retained by the employer to work in a different capacity.

The defendant manufacturer contended that the potential dangers were open and obvious and that such warnings were not necessary.

The Court held that under applicable case law, the jury could not consider the plaintiff’s comparative negligence. The defendant argued, however, that the plaintiff’s actions in placing his hand on the chain in close proximity to the opening was the sole proximate cause of the subject accident. The co-defendant installer maintained that it appropriately followed the plans of the design engineering company, which was in bankruptcy, and that if such platform were necessary, the designers should have so p 7 3 instructed.

The jury found for the defendants.

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