Company Retrofits Forklift Fleet After Paying $1,250,000
This was a workplace accident that involved the death of a 24 year-old warehouse worker while operating a forklift used to maneuver pallets and tow wheeled carts. The forklift has a platform on which the operator stood and used a set of controls like bicycle handlebars to move and steer. The forward-reverse control was a large raised button on a flat panel in front of the operator. The Plaintiff was backing the forklift up into a confined area when a horizontal bar struck his back forcing him over onto the control panel. The forklift continued to back-up into the steel bar mechanically asphyxiating him. His body blocked access to the change of direction control and co-workers could not get the forklift to go forward.
P&K alleged that the forklift was defective and unreasonably dangerous for not providing occupant protection in the form of a roll-bar type cage, or at least a straight vertical bar behind the operator which would block a horizontal object from striking the operator and forcing him over the controls. The forklift manufacturer contested liability arguing improper use of the machine and inadequate training by the employer. The case settled after engineering experts testified. The Plaintiff was survived by a minor child. The manufacturer of the forklift made a fleet wide retrofit to include occupant guarding after this lawsuit.