Suit blames sawmill's safety violations for employee's wrongful death

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 30, 2008, 4:16am

MARSHALL – The family of a man killed while working at a Texas sawmill is suing the company for alleged safety violations.

According to the complaint filed Dec. 28 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas, Jose Luis Flores Guadarrama was employed at Southern Hardwood Co. on Jan. 20, 2007, when he died.
Guadarrama was making wooden boards for pallets using a board edger, when the Crosby board edger "shot back" a board into Guadarrama's chest.

Guadarrama was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead and the cause of death determined to be from a blunt force trauma to the chest, the wrongful death suit states.

Following the industrial accident, Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators visited the site and cited the company with numerous violations.

Guadarrama's wife, Teresa Gomez Gonzalez, a Mexican national, believes these violations were the cause of her husband's fatal accident.

Gonzalez filed the suit individually and on behalf of the estate of Guadarrama, and as next friend of Sarah Flores Gomez against Southern Hardwood Co. LLC.

According to the complaint, OSHA issued "serious" citations against Southern Hardwood for failing to ensure the edger displayed proper warnings and failing to ensure the equipment with worn kickback features was restored to good serviceable condition.

Other violations listed include failure to ensure the chop saw and the pulley on the log deck was guarded, failure to ensure the inclined belt on the chop saw was guarded, and failure to ensure various sprockets and drives were guarded.

The complaint continues detailing violations that include failure to have identifying information on electrical equipment, failing to ensure the electrical box was covered, failure to properly cover panel boards, using flexible cords instead of fixed wiring for equipment, failing to ensure electrical enclosures were suitable for interior locations, and failing to ensure electrical switches and breakers were in waterproof containers.

The plaintiff states, "The poor maintenance and condition of the equipment, as reflected in the many violations, were a direct proximate cause of the death of Jose Luis Flores Guadarrama."

Alleging gross negligence and seeking exemplary damages, the complaint argues the defendant failed to maintain its equipment and premises in a safe manner, failure to provide effective safeguards, failing to provide a safe workplace, failing to set appropriate safety guidelines to prevent accidents and for hiring, supervising, retaining, and training employees unable to create and maintain a safe working environment.

The plaintiff is represented by Longview attorney Blake C. Erskine of the law firm Erskine and McMahon, LLP and Austin attorneys Mark Blackburn, Blake C. Erskine Jr., and Robert Ranco of the law firm Erskine and Blackburn, LLP.

Jury trial requested.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward will preside over the litigation.

Case No 2:08cv00479

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