In 2011, Daniel Albarracin was working as an operator of a machine in a candy & nut company plant in Allentown, PA, when his hand and forearm were cut off. Albarracin worked on a conveyor were sometimes the oil from the nuts would cause the transport belt to become misaligned. The remedy was for the worker to apply corn starch by reaching in near the drive roller. Albarracin inserted his hand to apply the starch and his hand became lodged and severed by the machine. He was forced to have his arm amputated from just below the bend of the elbow. He brought a civil action against A.L Bazzini Co. Inc, the manufacturer, for negligence in allowing for a hazardous condition to exist.
The suit alleged that the employer had failed to maintain safe working conditions, based on the nip point being unreasonably dangerous. The claim asserted that a safeguard should have been installed to prevent such injuries. A lead mechanic for the facility explained that it was a routine standard to place a hand into the opening to use spread the starch powder. The defense countered by saying that the nip point area was guarded because there was ample distance between the opening and the nip point. They claimed that Albarracin had actually caused his own injury by applying the starch when the machine was still running. If the machine has been appropriately paused before inserting his hand, the accident could not have occurred, as the sufficient space exists to safeguard against this.
Immediately following the accident, Albarracin underwent an emergency procedure where it was deemed impossible to reattach his severed hand. He began a rigid program of physical therapy and acquired a myoelectric prosthesis, an electrical style of synthetic limb, with a cost of $120,000. As the sides attempted to quantify the potential damages, an expert witness suggested that he had approximately a remaining life expectancy of 29 years. Albarracin hired someone to help with routine household tasks and sought a total of roughly $1.7 million in damages.
An occupational rehabilitation expert stated that he would not be capable of effectively resuming his work as a machine operator. His outlook for employment in a factory setting would be limited to a part-time role, and was seeking over $500,000 in future losses of wages. A.L. Bazzini’s orthopedic expert claimed that he should be able to work in a role that did not require regular usage of both hands. An economic specialist for the defense calculated that he should only be eligible for $1.1 million rather than $1.7 million in compensation. In court, as the jury deliberations were underway, the two parties reached a settlement totaling $1 million to resolve this personal injury matter.
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