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Francisco Lalin v. Plymouth Beef Co., Inc.

Case Name

Francisco Lalin v. Plymouth Beef Co., Inc.

Type of Injury

HAND AMPUTATION

Occupation

Machine Cleaner

Location

Bronx, New York

Verdict

After selection of a jury, but prior to the scheduled start of trial, the parties negotiated a settlement. Plymouth Beef's primary insurer tendered its policy, which provided $1 million of coverage; Plymouth Beef's excess insurer agreed to pay $1 million; and Santos Cleaning's insurer agreed to pay $2 million. Thus, the settlement totaled $4 million. Santos Cleaning also waived its workers' compensation lien.

Verdict Amount

$4,000,000

Case Details

During the evening of Jan. 5, 2011, plaintiff Francisco Lalin, 51, a machine cleaner, worked at a meat processing facility that was located at 355 Food Center Drive, in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. During the course of his work, he attempted to clean a meat-grinding machine. The machine spontaneously activated while Lalin was removing interior components. His left hand became trapped within the grinding area, and he suffered an injury that necessitated amputation of the hand. He also suffered injuries of an arm, his back, his neck and a shoulder.

Lalin sued the facility’s operator, Plymouth Beef Co. Inc. Lalin alleged that Plymouth Beef negligently failed to provide a safe workplace. He further alleged that Plymouth Beef’s negligence created a dangerous condition that caused the accident.

Plymouth Beef impleaded Lalin’s employer, Santos Cleaning Corp. Plymouth Beef alleged that Santos Cleaning was negligent in its supervision and training of Lalin. Plymouth Beef further alleged that Santos Cleaning’s negligence caused the accident.

Lalin’s counsel contended that the machine’s sudden activation was likely a result of Lalin having inadvertently stepped on a pedal that controlled the machine. The pedal was an aftermarket device installed by Plymouth Beef, as an alternative to side-mounted control buttons that had been installed by the machine’s manufacturer. Lalin’s counsel contended that the pedal lacked panels or any other shield that could have prevented unintentional use of the pedal. Lalin’s counsel further contended that the pedal should have been removed prior to the arrival of Lalin or any other maintenance worker. He contended that Plymouth Beef violated an Occupational Safety and Health Administration guideline requiring pre-maintenance disengagement of the machine’s power supply.

Santos Cleaning’s counsel agreed that Plymouth Beef should have deactivated the machine’s power prior to Lalin’s arrival.

Plymouth Beef’s counsel contended that Lalin and Santos Cleaning were responsible for deactivating the machine prior to maintenance. He claimed that Lalin’s training included the use of similar machines, that Lalin, therefore, had known that the machine required deactivation prior to maintenance and that Lalin could have simply unplugged the machine. He further claimed that a co-worker had offered to demonstrate proper disassembly of the machine, but that Lalin declined the assistance.

Plymouth Beef’s counsel also argued that Lalin should have been aware of the pedal’s presence.