Street Sweeper: On-the-job injury and death

Beasley Allen’s Georgia Lawyers Secure Multimillion Dollar Verdict

A Georgia state jury awarded $4.25 million, subject to 49% apportionment, to the daughter of a man crushed to death by an M6 Avalanche street sweeper after finding the defendants failed to ensure that the heavy-duty mechanical broom sweeper was in safe operating condition and free of defects. Lance Cooper, Pat Dawson and Rebekah Cooper of The Cooper Firm, along with Beasley Allen attorney Kendall Dunson, represented Gabrielle Smith, the daughter of Orlando Hall.

“Our evidence showed the defendants negligently placed faulty equipment in the stream of commerce, which ultimately led to Mr. Hall’s tragic and gruesome death,” Dunson said. “And the jury’s verdict rings loud and clear—manufacturers’ carelessness and disregard for human life will not be tolerated.”

Hall was providing street sweeping services in Gwinnett County, Ga., as a subcontractor for E.R. Snell, Inc. In September 2017, while performing his job at Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth, Mr. Hall noticed a problem with the street sweeper that included smoke emanating from the vehicle. After pulling over by a convenience store to inspect the equipment and troubleshoot the problem, Hall was crushed between the hopper and conveyor when his lower leg inadvertently activated the unguarded controls that were negligently placed in close proximity to a crushing hazard.

Hall’s daughter, Smith, sought to hold the defendant accountable for her father’s death. Her lawsuit claimed that Schwarze Industries, Inc., designed, manufactured and selected equipment that was “defective, unreasonably dangerous and unsafe for foreseeable users and occupants.” Specifically, the litigation determined that, among other things, the design of the sweeper’s outside controls created a risk for unintended activation of the controls.

The location of the controls, the toggle switches, and failure to properly guard the switches for the conveyor/elevator/hopper made the system vulnerable to inadvertent activation. Approximately three years following Hall’s death, a mechanic working for the City of Mesa, Ariz., was also crushed in the exact same manner as Mr. Hall. Following the death of Mr. Jason Oswald, Schwarze and its parent company, The Alamo Group, redesigned the outside control box to include guards with the intent of preventing inadvertent activation of the equipment. Plaintiff’s mechanical engineer, Eric Van Iderstine, had suggested guarding the controls when he was deposed in the Smith litigation five months before the Oswald incident.

Because of this litigation, no one else using an M6 Avalanche street sweeper will suffer the same gruesome fate suffered by Orlando Hall and Jason Oswald. The Beasley Allen firm, the Cooper Firm, and the family of Mr. Hall are proud that their efforts of pursuing this litigation will save lives in the future.

The suit (case number 18-C-05219-S3), Gabrielle Smith v. E.R. Snell Contractor, Inc., Tractor & Equipment Company, and Schwarze Industries, Inc., was filed in the State Court of Gwinnett County, State of Georgia.

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