An Oregon agricultural worker found himself in a precarious position while using a hay-baling machine that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The machine literally crushed his torso leaving him with nothing but soft tissue holding his body together. He was removing some hay that had jammed in the baler when the baler moved crushing his body into an inch-wide space.
The accident occurred on March 31, 2010. The worker was only 21 years old. His attorney described him as one of many Latino workers who often work in dangerous jobs with hazardous working conditions. They do not complain because many of them have immigration issues, and they do not have a union or anyone to speak up for them.
In this particular case, the courts awarded the worker $6M, although they found the worker 40 percent responsible for the accident because he failed to push a button on the machine that would have kept it from moving while he was removing the jammed hay. They found the manufacturer of the hay baling machine, Double Press Manufacturing, responsible for 60 percent of the accident for unsafe equipment.
According to the worker's attorneys, through their own investigation, they found that Double Press Manufacturing's equipment had resulted in other injuries to workers. These injuries included amputated fingers, a broken leg and a mangled arm. Double Press Manufacturing allegedly kept no records of these injuries. Another case where a man lost his arm in one of their machines is still pending trial.
The 21-year-old was working for OR/PAC at the time, which has been fined $1500 in the workers' compensation claim. Their machine has since been modified for safety by the manufacturer at their request.
The trial took three weeks, but only three hours of deliberation for the jury to come back with the verdict. The paralyzed worker, who is now 24, said he doesn't remember much about the accident except screaming in pain. He now plans to go to college, and embark on a career as a physical therapist so he can help others with disabilities.
If you have been injured on the job by unsafe equipment, you should contact an attorney right away. Attorneys can represent your rights and uncover any additional evidence necessary to present a strong case on your behalf.
oregonlive.com, "Oregon agricultural worker gets $6 million for hay bale machine accident that left him paralyzed" Aimee Green, Jun. 21, 2013