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$975,000 Recovery – Products Liability Defective Design

Case Synopsis:

The plaintiff alleged that a turret rewinder—a machine used to take off and rewind finished paper products—was defectively designed by the defendant manufacturer. The plaintiff claimed that a lack of appropriate safeguards caused an inadvertent actuation of the machine, severely crushing the plaintiff’s hand. The defendant argued that the plaintiff assumed the risk of his injuries by knowingly placing his hand into the machine during rewinding and unloading process.

The plaintiff was a 50-year-old machine operator employed by Weyerhaeuser Corporation, a producer of paper products, located in Langhorne, PA. The plaintiff was working with a turret rewinder designed and manufactured by the defendant. The ten-year-old equipment was designed to take off and rewind finished materials from a printing press. The plaintiff had nearly 30 years experience in operating turret rewinders. Many of the turret rewinders operated by the plaintiff had been supplied to his employer by the defendant.

On July 30, 2004, the plaintiff was preparing to offload a finished roll of paper that had been rewound by the turret rewinder in question. This process involves activating a switch that allowed the finished roll to lower approximately an inch onto a pallet for shipment.

The plaintiff had his right hand on top of the finished roll and, with his left hand, was attempting to activate the control button that lowers the finished toll; instead, the plaintiff inadvertently touched the turret start button. The idler roller began to rotate, coming in contact with the plaintiff’s right hand and trapping it between the finished rewound paper roll and idler roller. The plaintiff’s co-worker came over and reversed the idle roller, which relieved pressure from the plaintiff’s hand and allowed him to remove it from the machine.

The plaintiff was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he was admitted for three days. The plaintiff underwent open reduction internal fixation, involving orthopedic pins and plates. Following his hospital discharge, the plaintiff underwent extensive occupational therapy.

Six months after the accident, the orthopedic hardware was removed from the plaintiff’s right hand and he underwent extensor tenolysis of the tendons in his hand. Approximately a year post-accident, the plaintiff underwent a third procedure involving contracture release of the ring and small fingers.

The plaintiff claimed $125,000 in medical expenses and $71,000 in lost wages. The plaintiff claimed that there was no reason for the defendant to design the turret rewinder with a duplicative control box at the discharge end of the machine. A similar set of controls was located on the main control panel, which was a distance of five feet from the discharge end of the machine and would have removed the plaintiff from the danger zone.

The plaintiff contended that if the defendant placed a control box by the discharge end of the machine the buttons on that control box should have been protected against inadvertent actuation since an operator would be in close proximity to the turret rewinder idle roller.

Prior to conduction of any depositions, plaintiff’s counsel obtained and produced to defense counsel various safety publications showing how to control buttons were shrouded or provided with button guards to prevent inadvertent actuation.

Outcome:

The case settled prior to trial for $975,000. The case was handled by Philadelphia products liability attorney, Richard M. Jurewicz, Esquire of Galfand Berger. For more information on this case, please contact him at rjurewicz@galfandberger.com.

 

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