Risky Business: Dropout Divider

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A regular customer rented a log splitter and one of her employees injured her hand while using the machine. The customer informed the rental store employees of the injury when they returned the machine.

A few days later, a notice from an attorney representing the injured person was received by the owner of the rental store. This document and the facts of the accident as they knew them were sent to their insurance company where a claim was filed. While investigating the claim, the adjuster requested an expert inspection of the log splitter.

According to expert inspection, this accident occurred while the young woman was positioning a log on the machine. When the lever that moves the wedge is in the middle position, the wedge should be stopped but instead it continues to move forward almost imperceptibly, crawling slowly. If the machine had moved at its normal forward speed, the employee would have lost her hand, but the person accompanying her pulled the lever back before she received the full force of the pressure. . The adjuster felt that the lever should have been replaced or repaired by the rental shop. It appears that the rental store employees may have been aware of the creep but had not corrected the problem.

Shortly after the inspection, a complaint was filed by the lawyer representing the injured party. The lawsuit alleged that the rental store employee who rented the log splitter from the contractor:

  • Failed to demonstrate its operation, or ensure that the equipment was in a reasonably safe operating condition, or ensure that it was safe for its intended purpose.
  • Failed to provide proper safety instructions or warnings regarding the safe use of the log splitter.
  • Did not verify that the log splitter had been properly maintained.

The lawsuit then alleges that the rental store was aware of the unsafe condition of the log splitter which included, but was not limited to, a compromised hydraulic control system, fluid leaks and compromised safety devices.

While operating the log splitter, the contractor employee’s right hand was crushed and lacerated when the log splitter cylinder unexpectedly activated while her hand was in the space between the cylinder and the mass components of the log splitter.

And finally, the lawsuit states that the disfigurement of an injured youth’s arm is not favorable and that due to the malfunction of the machine and the negligence of the rental shop, the injured person suffered and will suffer injuries and indefinite damages, including but not limited to:

  • Displaced right hand fractures, extensive soft tissue derangement, open laceration, and nerve, tendon, ligament, and muscle damage.
  • Expenditure on past and future medical treatment and surgery.
  • Permanent scars.
  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of earning capacity and loss of wages.

The owner of the rental store was questioned by the defense attorney hired by the insurance company to represent the rental store. The owner admitted that although he maintained his machines, he did not keep records proving that it had been done. There was no documentation that rental store employees gave instructions on the proper use of the log splitter.

In mediation several months later, the injured person won a settlement totaling almost half a million dollars for the disfigurement of his hand and arm.

Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.

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