In this tragic case, our clients’ son was killed when he fell into a large machine used to dye cypress mulch with red dye. He was horribly crushed and dismembered by a large auger that turned the mulch to coat it with dye. We sued several entities in this case as a result of the death, including the company where the man worked, the manufacturer of the machine, and the company that designed the machine, because each of the defendants played an important role in the death.
When too much mulch was placed in the machine, it would form a “bridge” and clog, so the workers would be required to turn the machine off, break the bridge with tools, and clear the mulch by hand. This process was time consuming and labor intensive, which decreased the amount of mulch that could be produced every hour and thereby decreased the profitability of the business. Put simply, if the machine wasn’t running, it wasn’t making money-it was costing money.
The machine was designed and manufactured with two important defects. First, it routinely bridged with mulch which necessitated shutting it down and unclogging it by hand (or dangerously poking the mulch from overhead). Second there was no safety grate or other means to prevent people from falling into the hopper when the machine was running, although the original prototype design included a safety grate. The manufacturer and designer claimed the machine was capable of producing a certain quantity of dyed mulch per hour, which made the machine an attractive and profitable addition to a landscape products company. However, these production figures did not account for the delays caused by the use of a safety grate, so it was eliminated from the final design.