Suit alleges post office unsafe work environment

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 3, 2008, 3:51am

MARSHALL -- After only a few hours of training, Donald Smith claims he was crushed by a rack of mail while unloading at the post office. He is now suing the post office for failing to provide a safe working environment.

According to the suit, Smith attempted to help unload the racks of mail sitting in a mail truck. After his supervisor lined up the first rack to be unloaded and sent down the unloading ramp, Smith began backing the ramp down.

He was pulling the ramp while walking backwards, when he lost control of the rack. The heavy rack knocked Smith from the ramp to the ground. Then the rack fell on top of him, fracturing his spinal column.

Alleging negligence, Smith filed suit against the United States and Edwards Transportation LLC, doing business as Mesa Mail Services, on Nov. 25 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Edwards Transportation contracts with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail from the central processing facility to local post offices. The company called Smith to begin training on Sept. 15, 2007.

According to Smith, he was taught how the mail was loaded onto large wheeled racks and placed into the trucks. Smith believes these racks weighed approximately 400 pounds. Because he was still in training, Smith was not allowed to load the trucks from the central processing unit but rode with the postal truck to the local post office to help unload.

The Edwards Transportation truck was fitted with an inoperable Tommy Lift but the local post office had a similar ramp which was raised to the level of the truck for unloading.

The plaintiff states he has subsequently learned that the ramp should have with a chair or similar mechanism to close the ramp during operation and prevent falling. Further, the plaintiff states he did not observe any warnings or instructions on the ramp.

The suit accuses the post office of negligence for failing to provide a safe work environment for its contractors and employees.

Smith asserts Edwards Transportation is negligent and liable for failing to provide a safe place to work, failing to adequately establish and enforce safety rules and regulations, and failing to eliminate unsafe methods and operations.

The plaintiff believes the defendant is negligent for failing to provide warning signs about operating a forklift without proper training, failing to secure dangerous equipment, failing to remove keys from an unattended forklift and failing to train employees in the basic operation of the forklift and failing to provide proper safety equipment.

Smith is seeking damages for approximately $7,000 in past medical expenses, future medical expenses, physical pain, suffering and mental anguish, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement, and physical impairment.

Smith's claims were previously presented and denied by the U.S. Postal Service.

The plaintiff is represented by Tyler attorneys Darren Grant and Matthew Flanery of the law firm Grant and Flanery PC.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward is assigned to the litigation.

Case No 2:08cv00454

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