Monday, November 18, 2013
Meat Grinder Held Not to Be a ‘Power Press’ Under Workers’ Compensation Exclusivity Exception
By JUSTIN LEVINE, Staff Writer
An industrial worker who lost his arm in a commercial meat grinding accident is not entitled to sue his employer over the accident and must rely on a workers’ compensation claim as an exclusive remedy for compensation, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. Seven ruled Thursday that the meat grinder could not be considered a “power press” under one of the Labor Code’s exceptions to the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule.
The suit was brought by Jose Herrera, an employee of Unistar Food Processing in Pomona, where he used a “Butcher Boy” meat grinder to grind cubes of frozen raw pork.
In February 2009, Herrera’s hand became stuck to a frozen pork cube as he attempted to push it down the grinder’s chute, drawing his right arm into its rotating screw. The machine did not have a protective guard at the time, and a portion of Herrera’s arm had to be amputated as a result of the accident.
He sued Unistar under Labor Code § 4558, which allows a worker to recover damages from an employer for an injury caused by the defendant’s “knowing failure to install a point of operation guard on a power press” designed to have safety guards while operating.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Segal, sitting on the Court of Appeal by assignment, said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Dukes was correct in granting Unistar’s motion for summary judgment.
Segal cited the definition of a power press under § 4558, which describes it as “any material-forming machine that utilizes a die which is designed for use in the manufacture of other products.”
Applying what he described as “a plain and commonsense meaning” to the text, Segal said that even if a triable issue of fact existed regarding whether the meat grinder in question utilized a die, it still could not be considered a “power press” since it did not manufacture a different product as required by the statutory definition.
“The meat grinder here does not manufacture another product,” Segal said. “What goes into the meat grinder comes out of the grinder, albeit in smaller pieces. Cubed pork goes in, and ground pork comes out. Thus, a meat grinder does not manufacture a different product. It merely minces the meat.”
He went on to write:
“Although the question of whether a particular machine is a power press within the meaning of section 4558 typically is a question of fact for the jury,” Segal said, “in an appropriate case the court can resolve the question as a matter of law on summary judgment…This is such a case.”
Attorneys on appeal were Marcus A. Mancini, Timothy J. Gonzales, and Michael R. Fostakowsky of Mancini & Associates and Gerald M. Serlin and Wendy S. Albers of Benedon & Serlin for the plaintiff and Gary L. Hoffman and Tracy L. Hughes of Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck for the defendant.
The case is Herrera v. Unistar Food Processing, Inc., B241440.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company