The plaintiff, a 40 year-old Salvadoran woman, was employed as a bakery worker at a commercial bakery in Chelsea, Massachusetts. At the time of the incident, the plaintiff was one of several operators of a large, commercial bakery dough-processing machine, which was designed to produce bread products for wholesale distribution.
While in the course of her duties, the plaintiff attempted to remove some dough scraps that had accumulated beside the conveyer belt. With her arm extended, the plaintiff’s cloth glove was suddenly snagged by the protruding teeth of an unguarded, rotating lock-washer. As the lock-washer rotated, it drew the plaintiff’s gloved-hand into the motorized mechanism, severing the distal phalanx of her right ring finger. In addition, the plaintiff suffered a deep laceration of the dorsal aspect of her right forearm.
The plaintiff contented that the defendant, a French corporation, was negligent in failing to guard the rotating lock-washer so as to protect workers from contact with the lock-washer’s rotating teeth. The plaintiff was prepared to prove that there were alternatives to using a star lock-washer, which is given its name for its star-like protruding teeth. For example, if the machine had been made with an internal toothed lock-washer instead, it would have eliminated the safety hazard without impacting the dough-processing machine’s functionally. Finally, the plaintiff contended that the defendant’s employee/installer, who had traveled from France to Massachusetts to install the machine, failed to bend the protruding teeth of the star lock-washer downward in accordance with the machine’s design specifications. The failure to make this adjustment to the protruding teeth created a safety hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
The defendant was prepared to offer evidence that the plaintiff knew that it was dangerous to place her hand near any of the machine’s moving parts and that her negligence in doing so was a voluntary and unreasonable intervening act precluding recovery. The defendant further argued that the star lock-washer that injured the plaintiff had originally been installed properly, but had been removed at some point by the plaintiff’s employer for the purpose of routine maintenance and was improperly reinstalled. The Plaintiff’s employer denied allegations that they modified the position of the lock-washer, however they did admit to making other modifications to the dough-processing machine.
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