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$________ GROSS Defectively designed plastic injection molding machine - improper guarding - inadequate warnings - plaintiff allegedly slips into gap in machine and is pinned against frame by cylinder - anoxia - brain injury - permanent brain damage.


The plaintiff, in his late 20’s and working in the course of his employment as a foreman at the time of the subject incident, brought suit against the manufacturer of a plastic injection molding machine alleging that the machine was defectively designed and equipped with inadequate warnings. The plaintiff contended that he sustained a brain injury caused by anoxia which he suffered when he slipped and fell into an opening or gap in the machine and was pinned against the frame by the pneumatic cylinder.

The machine in question was an HPM ________-IX-60 plastic injection molding machine which, when originally manufactured, was raised above its bed in accordance with the request of its initial purchaser Celonese Corporation to enable the installation of a conveyer belt. The safety gate, however, was not extended downward to cover the additional area or gap created under the safety gate created by the raising of the bed. The machine was subsequently sold and eventually purchased by the plaintiff’s employer. At the time of the accident, there was no conveyer belt present in the machine, but the safety gate remained in its original position, leaving a 44 inch gap under the safety gate.

It was unclear as to what the plaintiff’s purpose was in approaching the machine as he suffered from retrograde amnesia as a consequence of which he had no memory of the accident. There were no warnings on the front of the machine not to reach under the gate.

The plaintiff’s expert mechanical engineer testified that the machine as designed was defective and that the safety gate should have extended down to at least two feet above the bed to prevent accessibility to the area. The plaintiff’s expert further maintained that the manufacturer should have affixed warnings on the machine itself instructing operators not to enter the area under the gate. The plaintiff’s neuro-psychology expert testified as to the brain damage sustained by the plaintiff, which he described as a diffuse brain injury caused by anoxia manifesting in loss of IQ., personality changes and a seizure disorder.

The defendant contended that the machine was safe as designed and was specifically modified for use with a conveyer belt in accordance with the request of the initial purchaser. The defendant further asserted that the warnings were adequate and that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury by intentionally entering the exposed area. The defendant disputed that the plaintiff suffered a permanent brain injury, pointing to the fact that the plaintiff had returned to work following the accident.

The jury assessed 10% liability against the defendant HPM and returned a gross verdict of $1.5 million.

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