industrial accident lawyer, product liability

Work Robot Blamed For Michigan Woman’s Death

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against five robotics, automotive and welding companies in a Michigan federal court. Wanda Holbrook, a Journeymen maintenance technician, was killed. It’s alleged that the five companies didn’t properly design, manufacture or test their products that were in place at a Michigan auto parts facility. The complaint alleges that the defects failed to prevent a robot from crushing Ms. Holbrook’s skull while it was trying to place a hitch assembly in an already occupied fixture. The complaint states:

Wanda Holbrook was working for automotive parts maker Ventra Ionia LLC on July 7, 2015, when a robot entered a section of the weld department in which it did not belong. While trying to place a hitch assembly piece in an occupied fixture, the robot hit and crushed Holbrook’s head between the piece and the fixture. She was pronounced dead by first responders on the scene after being found unresponsive.

The robot from section 130 should have never entered section 140, and should have never attempted to load a hitch assembly within a fixture that was already loaded with a hitch assembly. A failure of one or more of defendants’ safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda’s death.

FANUC America Corp., Nachi Robotic Systems Inc. and Lincoln Electric Co. manufactured the equipment in the section that Holbrook was servicing during the incident, the complaint says. Flex-N-Gate LLC and Prodomax Automation Ltd., along with Lincoln Electric, performed the installation, integration, engineering and servicing of the section’s automation system. The five companies are responsible for Ms. Holbrook’s death due to their failure to properly design, manufacture and test their products. Because of those failures, Ms. Holbrook was not properly warned about their dangers. The automation system in the area of the facility she was in also failed to meet state and federal workplace safety requirements as well as welding and robotic industry standards.

The complaint sets out claims of design and manufacturing defects, breach of implied warranty, failure to warn and negligence. William Holbrook, who sued on behalf of his wife’s estate, is represented by Matthew L Wikander and Charissa Huang of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge PC. The case is Holbrook v. Prodomax Automation Ltd. et al (case number 1:17-cv-00219) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Source: Law360.com

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