A hardworking young man with his whole life ahead of him suffered a painful and debilitating amputation injury while working at Prairie Farms Dairy in Birmingham, Alabama. The injury was unnecessary and easily preventable. It occurred because dangerous machinery at the dairy plant lacked the proper guarding to keep workers safe.
Cases like these define why we, as personal injury and product liability lawyers, do what we do. We help those who need it most. In this case, Kendall Dunson understood our client Fitsroy Campbell’s challenges caused by his on-the-job injury.
In July 2021, Mr. Campbell’s workday started as routinely as any other day. He was working in the milk pasteurizing part of the dairy factory where stacks of milk roll along a conveyor system. A defect in the floor conveyor occasionally caused the milk stacks to become stuck. Like other Prairie Farms employees, Mr. Campbell corrected the jam by manually pulling the stack back on track to keep the line moving.
Tragically, however, his foot became caught by the machine’s chain and mangled due to a lack of required safety guards. The injury caused Mr. Campbell to lose his foot and leg below his knee.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the circumstances of Mr. Campbell’s injury. The agency found that the company had removed a machine guard designed to protect workers from becoming injured by a caught-in hazard the way our client was. The maximum fine for this type of violation, which OSHA deemed “Serious,” is $14,502 per violation – hardly enough to discourage most large companies from cutting corners and putting their employees at risk of serious injury or death. It was likely a matter of time before a worker at the facility became caught up in the unguarded machine and got injured. Federal officials were at the plant investigating a previous on-the-job injury when Mr. Campbell’s accident occurred.
Kendall believes OSHA should have assessed the violation that injured Mr. Campbell as “Willful” because it reflects the employer’s conduct more accurately. OSHA categorizes the worst safety violations it finds as Willful. They exist when the employer either knowingly disregards federal safety rules and regulations or acts with indifference to the health and safety of its employees. Willful violations carry a maximum fine of $145,027 per violation.
“No one deserves to suffer an injury like this due to the negligence of others. Mr. Campbell suffered a painful and life-altering injury that will cause him to experience pain and physical challenges for the rest of his life,” Kendall said. “His traumatic injury has also diminished his ability to make a living. Prairie Farms and other defendants whose disregard for safety exposed Mr. Campbell to serious injury must be held accountable. While nothing can ever reverse his injury, justice can help ease its lifelong impact.”
In Alabama, workers who have been seriously injured on the job, like Mr. Campbell, can get financial relief through the employer’s insurance company. Workers’ compensation falls far short of covering the expenses a worker faces after a catastrophic on-the-job injury. It is also grossly inadequate for the families of workers who lose their lives in workplace accidents.
“Consulting a lawyer is essential for anyone seriously injured by workplace machinery like our client was,” Kendall said. “Workers’ compensation often isn’t enough to cover all of the medical bills, lost wages and other expenses a seriously injured worker faces, not to mention the trauma and daily hardship those injuries pose. A lawyer may be able to find other avenues of financial recovery, including looking for signs of negligence, product defects, or even a lack of proper training.”
A personal injury case involving an on-the-job injury could be broadened to include product liability claims if the accident involved an Industrial machine or equipment built with inadequate or defective components. Other parties, such as the machine installer or employer, may be liable for negligence if we find the machine was improperly guarded or modified.
Our lawyers have handled personal injury cases where an employee removed lifesaving machine guards, resulting in a coworker being seriously injured. An employer’s failure to train workers on the proper use and maintenance of a machine can also contribute to on-the-job injuries that give rise to third-party liability claims, putting the worker in a good position to receive maximum compensation for their injury.
If you have any questions, contact Kendall Dunson.