Negligent Design of Wood-Chipper Results in Traumatic Amputation

Synopsis

On January 15, 2008, Jose was working as an assistant on a remote orchard in Exeter, California, helping the operator of a wood-chipper manufactured by Jackrabbit, Inc. of Ripon. Jose was clearing debris from the chipping end of the wood-chipper when the operator activated a roller whose hydraulic metal arm raised up, catching Jose's left hand resulting in traumatic amputation. The operator was not seated in the operator cab at the time but was standing on the ground where he could not see Jose. The operator used a small branch to reach into the cab and flip the necessary switch.

Plaintiff Allegations

Jose sued Jackrabbit for product liability related to inadequate Spanish-language warning labels; no deadman seat which would have prevented the operation of the machine unless the driver was in the seat with a clear view of the surroundings; and improper instructions in the manual on how an operator should clear a material jam.

Defendant Allegations

Defendants contended there was a large percentage of employer and co-employee negligence, exacerbated by plaintiff's own negligence. Jackrabbit claimed the co-employee misused the wood-chipper in a manner that was not foreseeable to the manufacturer.

Injuries/Damages

Jose suffered traumatic guillotine amputation of his left non-dominant hand. Workers' compensation paid for emergency care, follow-up care with a hand surgeon, pain management, and psychological treatment.

Result

The parties resolved the civil matter for $1,200,000. The workers' compensation insurer waived all lien and credit rights. Plaintiff will receive disability payments and medical coverage for the rest of his life.