CHARLESTON, W.V., Aug. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Some workplace injuries are not as cut and dry as they originally seem, and such was the case with a recent seven-figure settlement that Bailey, Javins, & Carter, LC secured on behalf of an injured West Virginia coal worker. The case involved a roof bolter operator who was working in an underground coal mine and whose sleeve got caught in the bolting machine. The sleeve was given to the worker by the coal mining company to protect him from inadvertent contact with the drill steel.
As the worker started up the roof bolting machine, the machine made a slight movement that shifted the worker by several inches, causing his left arm to inadvertently come into contact with the rotating drill chuck. The worker never put his hands on the drill steel, but his supposedly protective sleeve caught onto the drill chuck; but rather than tearing away, the sleeve remained intact and wrapped and twisted the worker's arm around the drill steel.
The worker immediately suffered a shattered humerus bone which visibly stuck out of his arm, along with devastating injuries to muscles and nerves as he was hurled 6 feet into the air and left dangling by his broken arm, which was wrapped around his head. He also broke his jaw in three places and lost several of his teeth. The worker hung suspended and held up by his broken arm for an hour while some of his coworkers stood under him for support while others scrambled desperately to cut him free from his sleeve.
Co-workers went through 12 sets of box cutters before they were finally able to successfully cut him loose, and as the worker hung profusely bleeding and in excruciating pain, he truly thought that these would be his final moments.
The injured worker was later transported to the hospital, where his mangled arm was immediately operated on and he had surgery on his jaw a couple days later. The worker sustained multiple permanent injuries, and to this day, he lives with a great deal of ongoing pain, is no longer able to go back to his job, and he cannot participate in many of the activities he once enjoyed. The damage to his bones, muscles and nerves in the arm have left it of it little use to him.
"This was an absolutely tragic and senseless accident," says attorney Tim Bailey of Bailey, Javins, & Carter, LC. "The man hung on the roof of a coal mine for an hour sitting on the shoulders of his co-workers and thinking he was going to die. He went to other attorneys who told him there was nothing that could be done, but after suffering such a horrible injury, we believed that this worker deserved justice."
One of the first questions that needed to be asked was how a coal mine worker was given a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) - the sleeve - that turned out to be hazardous for the job he was doing because of its tear resistant properties.
"The seller of the sleeve markets its product to coal mine workers and even specifically lists roof bolters on its website, so why did they not warn the coal mining company or coal miners that this type of situation could happen?" Bailey continues. "The seller is in the best position to know the properties and hazards associated with the sleeves, because it is a licensed partner with the product manufacturer. However, no warning or instruction was given stating that the fibers in the sleeve are so strong that they will not tear when they come in contact with rotational equipment."
After thoroughly investigating and learning all the facts, Bailey, Javins, & Carter pursued a product liability claim against the seller of the tear resistant sleeve. They demonstrated liability on the part of the product seller by proving a number of facts:
- The company had begun marketing its tear resistant sleeve to the coal mining industry and specifically to roof bolters several years prior to the worker's injury.
- Employees of the product seller admitted that their knowledge of the product is superior to that of the coal company.
- Despite its superior knowledge, the product seller did next to nothing to familiarize itself with the coal mining industry. Several employees admitted that they had never traveled to an underground coal mine, and they had never operated or seen a roof bolting machine in person.
- The product seller never reached out to anyone in the mining industry to discuss the use of the sleeves in question in underground mining, and the company had never tested the sleeve around a roof bolting machine to evaluate tear resistance.
- The sales representative who sold the sleeves to the mining company as PPE said that he was never informed that the sleeves were unsafe for use around rotational equipment.
- The sleeve came with no warnings whatsoever – no manuals, no online warnings, no product literature warnings, and no on-product warnings.
- Competing companies provide warnings with their similar PPE not to use it around rotational equipment, but the seller of the sleeve in question did not start providing warnings or testing for tear resistance until earlier this year after BJC confronted the company with the warnings it should have used in the first place.
"Manufacturers and sellers are required to adequately warn consumers of all foreseeable hazards with PPE as well as other products. The PPE must be fit for intended use, and to be fit, it must be safe, and manufacturers and sellers need to know the hazards associated with its use. This would necessarily require the manufacturer and seller to understand the industries to which their products are being marketed. In this case, it is clear that neither the manufacturer nor the seller understood the coal industry, and therefore they did not know what to warn about – and this is what caused our client to suffer his tragic life-altering injury."
The product seller recently agreed to pay seven figures in damages to settle the lawsuit, which includes damages for medical bills, loss of earnings, pain-and-suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, loss of consortium, and permanent disfigurement.
For more information about Bailey, Javins, & Carter, LC, go to https://www.baileyjavinscarter.com/
SOURCE Bailey, Javins, & Carter