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$________ Unguarded nip point on mechanical grape harvester - traumatic amputation of arm.


The plaintiff, age 15 at the time of the subject incident, brought the subject products liability suit against the manufacturer of a mechanical grape harvester which he was in the process of cleaning when his hand became caught in an in-running nip point. The plaintiff contended that the grape harvester was defective in that it failed to contain appropriate guarding over the in-running nip point.

At the end of the summer of ________, the plaintiff was working his second day at Van Erikson’s Ranches, a job which had been arranged by his father. The plaintiff was washing down the ________ mechanical grape harvester in question at the end of a 12 hour shift. The harvester is cleaned with the entire conveyer system running while one person squirts off the refuse and debris with a high pressure hose. The plaintiff was spraying at the lower left tail pulley when he reached in to remove some debris and his left non-dominant hand and arm were drawn slowly into the nip point and literally chewed. His father was washing down another mechanical grape harvester and due to the noise generated by the process, did not know that his son was being injured until he walked over 15 minutes later. He shut off the machine at the center console on the top. The nip point is unguarded, but contains a prominent warning in both english and spanish above the nip point as follows: "Danger: Rotating Machinery, keep hand out while engine is running." The plaintiff’s experts maintained that either a bar or mesh guard should have been present at the nip point and that a hydraulic shut-off switch should have been provided on each side of the machine at the lower tail pulley.

The plaintiff further alleged that the defendants were negligent in the manufacture, testing, warnings and design of this machine.

The plaintiff’s vocational rehabilitation counselor testified that the plaintiff would have most likely become an auto mechanic and is now relegated to minimum wage jobs.

The defendants admitted that this nip point was hazardous and posed a risk to those working at, or about the location. The defendant maintained that the placement of a guard at the location in question was not feasible due to the vast amount of debris which accumulates at the location of the nip point and that had a guard been incorporated in that area, it would have to be removed during the cleaning process. The defendant further asserted that an emergency shut-off switch would not work efficiently in the field setting and would create additional hazards wince it would remove full control from the operator of the machine. The defendant maintained that the decal warning provided was adequate and that the plaintiff’s employer was responsible for the accident in hiring a 15-year-old employee in violation of the Labor Code. The defendant finally alleged that the plaintiff himself was comparatively negligent in disregarding the decal warning in plain view by placing his hand into the nip point.

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