The family of a St. Joseph man who was killed in a tragic workplace accident have filed a lawsuit against the company who made the machine that killed him.
The lawsuit is an example of an important hole in the rule that victims who receive workers’ compensation cannot sue for other damages.
Workplace Accident Leaves One Dead at St. Joseph Lumber Mill
Back on March 12, 2018, a St. Joseph man working at the American Walnut Company went missing while operating a massive wood chipper. Coworkers found his remains in the wood chips.
According to the subsequent report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the worker had fallen into the chute of the wood chipper because he was not attached to the tether line. OSHA penalized the sawmill $112,000 for the safety violations related to the worker’s death. That increased the total federal fines that sawmill was facing to more than $200,000.
Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law Provides Survivor Benefits
In Missouri, workers’ compensation law provides survivor benefits when someone is killed on the job. Those survivor benefits usually go to the victim’s spouse and children. They come in the form of weekly payments of 2/3rds of the victim’s average weekly wage from the year prior to the accident, subject to limitations set by Missouri Statute 287.240.
Under this statute, survivor benefits have to be at least $40 per week, but cannot be more than 105% of Missouri’s average weekly wage. In 2019-2020, this maximum is $934.90 per week.
Additionally, survivor benefits under Missouri’s workers’ compensation law include $5,000 in funeral expenses.
After the death of a loved one, though, this falls far short of the compensation that the family deserves.
A Crucial Exception to the Rule That Workers’ Compensation Beneficiaries Cannot Sue
Workers’ compensation law is, at its core, a trade-off between employers and their workers. Workers get a streamlined source of compensation for their workplace injuries. In exchange, they give up their right to sue their boss for bad or dangerous working conditions.
However, there is nothing saying that the beneficiaries of workers’ compensation – which includes those who receive survivor benefits – cannot sue the company that designed the product that killed their loved one.
That is what the family of the deceased sawmill worker is doing. They have filed a lawsuit against the company that designed the XR430 Hog Wood Chipper that was responsible for the accident.
According to their products liability lawsuit, the design of the wood chipper was unsafe. While operators are supposed to stay inside a small shed above the chipper while it was working, there are no warning signs or even any safety gates to make workers think twice. There were also no emergency shut-off devices or guardrails to prevent a workplace injury.
Any of these safety devices may have prevented the accident. The family’s lawsuit aims to hold the company that made the wood chipper accountable for its poor design.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a workplace accident, call the personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph, Missouri, at (816) 875-9373, or contact them online.