Our firm recently settled a product liability case against the manufacturer of a planer infeed table. Our client, Stokes Moring, was employed at Dixon Lumber Company in Eufaula, Alabama.
Mr. Moring was employed as a millright employee responsible for maintaining and repairing machinery in the saw mill. Mr. Moring sustained his injury in December of 2003 while attempting to replace a belt on the drive system of the infeed table. While removing an idler, another employee, who did not see our client, turned the machine on causing his left arm to be caught in a pulley. The speed and force of the pulley ripped Mr. Moring’s arm from his body.
The damage caused by the injury was so severe Mr. Moring suffers from severe phantom pain. As you may know, phantom pain is a sensation experienced by people who have lost a limb. The victim of a lost body part experiences pain as if it was still present. Mr. Moring’s phantom pain was classified as severe because the nerves were damaged beyond repair causing him to experience constant shooting pain. Neither surgeries nor other procedures like nerve blocks have been successful at easing his phantom pain. As a result of his medical condition, Mr. Moring was unable to return to any gainful employment.
The infeed table that caused Mr. Moring’s injury was manufactured in 1975 by Salem Equipment Company. Dixon ordered the machine to automatically feed lumber into their planer machine. Manufacturers of woodworking machinery like infeed tables are required to observe and adhere to standards relating to guarding hazards. Standards have called for the guarding of pulleys and belts since the early 1900s.
Guarding hazards like pulleys and belts prevent accidents like the one sustained by Mr. Moring. Not only should the pulley have been guarded, but it should have been interlocked. The interlocking technology prevents machines from being inadvertently turned on when repair work is being done. As long as the guard is in the open position the interlocked guard will prevent the machine from being turned on. The best example of interlocking technology is a microwave oven. As long as the door to a microwave oven is open, it cannot work. Interlocking technology was available and recommended for machines like Salem’s infeed table.
The infeed table was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that was the basis of the case against Salem Equipment. The case was set for trial on August 20th and was settled. Although the settlement will not replace Mr. Moring arm, it will ease the burden placed on his family by losing his ability to earn income. As with all product liability cases handled by the firm, we hope that Salem will keep Mr. Moring and other workers in mind when designing and manufacturing machinery. An interlocking guard would have easily prevented Mr. Moring’s injury. Kendall C. Dunson and Bill Robertson from our firm, along with Shane Seaborn from Penn & Seaborn, who are in Clayton, Alabama, represented the Moring family.
The amount of the settlement is confidential, but we are very glad that we were able to take care of our client and his family in this case.