City worker sues after compactor explodes at landfill

David Yates Mar. 10, 2008, 8:13am

A former Beaumont city employee says he was forced into early retirement almost two years ago after a Caterpillar compactor caught fire and exploded near him while working at a municipal landfill.

Kenneth Allison and his wife Genevieve have filed suit against Caterpillar Inc. and Mustang Tractor & Equipment Co. (the company that sold the compactor to the city of Beaumont), claiming the exploding compactor's hydraulic hoses "were defective and unreasonably dangerous."

The suit was filed in the Jefferson County District Court on March 5.

According to the plaintiffs' petition, on March 18, 2006, Kenneth Allison was employed by the city of Beaumont at its municipal landfill as a compactor operator. The city had recently purchased a new Caterpillar Model 826 Compactor from Mustang Tractor. The machine was not even a year old when the events leading to this lawsuit occurred.

Allison was working on another machine when the new Model 826 compactor caught fire, the suit says. He heard a loud noise and was blown to the ground.

Allison finished out his work that day and saw a physician the following day who diagnosed him with elbow and hand problems.

"Allison continues to have problems with his right hand," the suit said. "Additionally, Plaintiff has significant problems with his lower back. He was referred to a physician in Houston. The physician told him that his back could be fused but that the physician did not recommend that considering Plaintiff's age."

Allison was 49 years old at the time of the incident.

"As a result of his accident and injuries, Plaintiff was forced to retire from his position with the city of Beaumont," the suit said. "He is now drawing Social Security disability benefits.

"Plaintiff would show that upon information and belief, a hydraulic hose or hoses ruptured on the new Caterpillar Model 826 Compactor," the suit states. "That produced a fire and possible explosion that either knocked Plaintiff from his machine, or so startled him that he fell off of his machine. Upon information and belief, the hoses were defective and unreasonably dangerous."

In his suit, Allison says he talked with a Mustang Tractor repairman who allegedly told him that this was the third or fourth machine of this particular model that caught fire. "The repairman was speculating that there may be a recall on this particular model machine."

The suit continues by alleging that the hydraulic lines and other components on the new Model 826 compactor were defective and unreasonably dangerous. "Plaintiff would show that the hydraulic hoses and other components failed during normal anticipated use. The machine had not been modified, nor had the hydraulic hoses been abused or otherwise modified."

"Plaintiff would show that � Mustang Tractor was negligent in the manner in which it inspected, delivered, serviced and assembled the compactor," the suit said. "Additionally, upon information and belief, both Caterpillar, Inc. and Mustang Tractor and Equipment Company were negligent in failing to warn users of the� compactor."

Kenneth Allison is suing for past and future lost wages, medical expenses and mental anguish.

His wife is suing for loss of consortium. "When measured in money, her damages for loss of consortium are significant and exceed the minimum jurisdictional limits of this Court," the suit said.

The couple is demanding a trial by jury and is represented by Steven Barkley, Attorney at Law.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District.

Case No. B181-388

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