Seafood worker sues after hand caught in shrimp processor

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 23, 2009, 3:51am

GALVESTON � After her fingers became caught in a shrimp-processing machine, a Galveston County woman has filed suit against her employer for $500,000 in damages.

Maria V. Gonzalez's personal injury lawsuit accuses Platinum Packing Inc., doing business as Gulf Diamond Seafood Packing, of intentionally manipulating the safety configuration of a conveyor belt Gonzalez was required to use as part of her duties as a seafood packer.

The original petition states that on Aug. 6, 2005, the plaintiff was collecting shrimp just as a few pieces fell inside the machine.

Alongside her responsibilities of weighing and packaging batches of newly-caught crustaceans, Gonzalez was required to reach into the machine and retrieve any loose shrimp.

"While collecting the shrimp, the plaintiff's fingers got caught inside the machinery, where they were snagged by a chain inside the machine," the suit says.

"The machinery then caused significant injuries to her hand that have caused the plaintiff to endure surgery as well as permanent disfigurement."

The suit argues that Gonzalez did not have to get the shrimp since the machine was equipped with safety gear.

"Under normal and reasonable circumstances, it would not have been necessary for her to remove the shrimp because there was a protective guard covering the opening of the machine," it says.

"However, the defendants had intentionally altered and removed the guards from some unknown reason. Had the guards been installed as required and cautioned on the machine, the plaintiff would not have had any reason to reach into the machine."

Gonzalez says her employer paid for the operation on her fingers, but refuses to cover the subsequent procedure.

"The defendant now claims that he is not willing to pay for anymore and that if the plaintiff pursues any further relief, he has threatened criminal retaliation against her," the suit explains.

Consequently, the plaintiff seeks restitution for pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental anguish, surgical intervention, and lost wages.

The suit was filed in Galveston County District Court on July 15.

Houston attorneys Norman L. Straub and Jonathan B. Zumwalt are representing Gonzalez.

Galveston County 122nd District Court Judge John Ellisor is presiding over the case.

Case No. 09CV1222

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