Mechanic Awarded $3 Million Compensation for an Injury due to an OHSA Violation

A mechanic has been awarded $3.271 million compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation after losing two fingers in a sugar silo gearbox accident.

John Mullin (49) – a father of six from Vacaville in Solano County – attended the Jelly Belly Candy factory in Fairfield on 4th June 2009, in order to obtain the part number of a gearbox located beneath a multi-storey sugar silo.

When John located the gearbox, he crouched down to read the part number, only to find the gearbox covered in sugar dust. As John reached out his right hand to wipe the sugar dust away from the label, a chain that controlled the flow of sugar from the silo activated – trapping the third and fourth fingers of his right hand.

John´s fingers were damaged so badly that they had to be amputated. John also developed complex regional pain syndrome, and he underwent several unsuccessful procedures to manage the pain including various nerve blocks, a thoracic sympathectomy and revision amputation.

After seeking legal advice, John made a claim for compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation – alleging that Jelly Belly Candy Co was in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards by failing to have a protective guard around the chain and the sprocket mechanism that activated it.

The confectionary manufacturer denied its liability for John´s injury and contested the claim for compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation – arguing that John was responsible for his own injury by failing to heed a warning not to touch anything while the machinery was still switched on.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Jelly Belly Candy Co – while acknowledging that there had been a failure to properly guard the chain and the sprocket mechanism – said that the violation of OHSA was not a substantial factor in causing John´s injury. They argued that John´s employers – Bearing Engineering of San Leandro – were the negligent party for failing to train him on proper lockout procedures.

An offer of settlement made by the Jelly Belly Candy Co amounting to $300,000 compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation was rejected by John´s lawyers, and the case was heard by a jury at the Superior Court of Solano County in Fairfield, before Judge Harry S Kinnicutt.

After four weeks of testimony, and three days of deliberations, the Solano County jury found in John´s favor – although attributing him with 23% comparative negligence. After the reduction for the contribution John had made to his accident and injury due to his own negligence, and an adjustment for sick pay and workers compensation benefits he had already received, the final settlement of John´s claim for compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation came to $3,271,607.