Unanimous Defense Verdict for Manufacturer Client in Case Involving Worker With Hand Amputated by Machine

January 30, 2024

Justin Hardin and Jeff Abney secured a unanimous defense verdict in federal court on behalf of a manufacturer of a negative paste speed compounder mixer in a product liability case. Plaintiff, a 22-year-old male, was injured while scraping the area of the discharge door in October 2018. While scraping dried paste away from the area, which he claimed to be normal operation and doing as he was trained, his right hand was amputated above the wrist by one of the mixer’s blades.  Plaintiff believed the blades had stopped rotating.  Plaintiff claimed the machine was defective and unreasonably dangerous as designed as it allowed him to access the area of the discharge door despite the fact that there remained kinetic energy and the blades continued to spin. Plaintiff presented evidence that the discharge door guard should have contained an interlock that would have prevented access to the hazardous area until the blades had ceased rotating. The interlock, an alternative feasible design, was available at the time the subject machine was manufactured in 2008. The defendant presented evidence that the guard was bolted down when it was manufactured and that the plaintiff’s employer modified the machine when it permanently removed the bolts and did not address the resulting hazard. Plaintiff requested $5.97 million to $9.97 in damages at closing (which included a prosthetic life care plan in excess of $2.5 million and a loss of future earning capacity of more than $500,000). The jury returned a unanimous defense verdict in less than 40 minutes.