Case Conclusion Date: 04.12.2010
Practice Area: Wrongful death
Outcome: $5.75 million settlement
Description: In January 2008, Marge Doe, a 26-year-old wife and mother of a 5-old girl, was working at ABC Manufacturing Co. in San Francisco. She and a coworker were changing a die on a creasing-and-cutting machine. Marge was leaning into the machine, her body stretched between the platens. Without warning, the machine started. Before Marge could extract herself, the platens closed, trapping and crushing her. She died before firefighters could extract her from the machine. Plaintiffs, the surviving husband and daughter of Marge Doe, sued ABC Manufacturing for Marge’s wrongful death. Although injured workers are generally limited to workers’ compensation benefits when they are injured on the job, California has a statutory exception statute allowing workers injured in power-press accidents the right to sue in civil court if their injuries are attributable to the removal or noninstallation of guards on power presses. The Does argued that the machine was a power press and defective. Plaintiffs also sued XYZ Machinery for strict products liability for importing and selling a defectively designed machine. Plaintiffs consulting experts identified a number of design flaws in the installed safety mechanisms. Alternatively, the machine could have been equipped with a pressure mat for the operator to stand on. If there is no weight on such a mat, the machine will not operate. Plaintiffs were unable to sue the manufacturer as it was located in China and beyond the Court’s jurisdiction for enforcing a judgment.