Worker loses arm in machinery, sues four companies

Kelly Holleran Apr. 5, 2011, 2:37am

A Grimes County man claims doctors had to partially amputate his arm after a machine grabbed hold of it and wrenched it.

Damien Collins filed a lawsuit March 25 in Jefferson County District Court against Grant Prideco, National Oilwell Varco, Manufacturing Technology, Sage Automation and Fanuc Robotic America Corp.

In his complaint, Collins claims he was working on an inertia welder on July 7, 2009, when his co-workers instructed him to place pieces of cardboard between clamps on the welder and a pipe. The cardboard would secure the pipe in the clamps, according to the complaint.

However, in order to place the cardboard in the clamps, Collins would have to wedge the material while the inertia welder was moving. If he stopped the welder, the operating cycle would be halted and would need to be restarted, slowing production, the suit states.

"As Plaintiff was attempting to place a piece of cardboard into the space between the clamp and the pipe that had been inserted into the inertia welder, his left arm was gripped by one of the clamps, and he suffered severe injuries to his arm which resulted in the amputation of his left arm below the elbow," the complaint says.

In addition to the amputation, Collins claims he incurred medical costs; lost his earning capacity; and experienced physical pain, suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement because of the incident.

Collins alleges negligence against defendants Grant Prideco and National Oilwell Varco, saying they failed to maintain the welder in a proper condition and failed to replace the clamps on the welder. At the time of the incident, Collins worked on the two defendants' premises, and they negligently utilized an unsafe procedure on the welder and instructed Collins to use an unsafe procedure when operating the welder, according to the complaint.

Defendant Manufacturing Technology manufactured the welder and defendant Sage manufactured the robotic arm on the welder Collins used at the time of the incident. Defendant Fanuc configured the welder and the robotic arm, the complaint says.

Collins accuses Manufacturing Technology, Sage and Fanuc of product liability, saying they negligently failed to provide a shield around the welder to prevent access to the welder's clamps, failed to include controls that would permit stopping and restarting the process in mid-cycle, failed to provide a control that would stop the operation of the welder and failed to place a "dead man" switch on the welder so the welder would not operate unless its operator was standing at the controls.

Had such designs been incorporated into the welder and its robotic arm, Collins would not have been injured or would not have received such severe injuries, the suit states.

In his complaint, Collins seeks an unspecified judgment, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Steve Waldman of Waldman Law Firm in Houston will be representing him.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. A189-655

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