Tyson sued after woman dragged down assembly line by hair weave

By Marilyn Tennissen | Jan 7, 2014

A chicken processor is suing Tyson Foods after an overhead hook got caught in her hair weave and pulled her down the assembly line.

Betty Josephine Stoker filed suit against Tyson Foods Inc. on Jan. 3 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas. 

Stoker, a Marshall resident, was employed as an assembly line worker at the chicken processing plant in Carthage where she pulled chicken livers from the poultry as it moved down a conveyor line.

According to the original complaint, on June 25, 2012, Stoker was directed by her supervisor to switch from the front line assignment to go to work in the overhead packing area of the plant.

She claims she was told to assist another worker in unpacking frozen poultry and place it on metal shackles that hung overhead used to move the chicken’s body through the plant for processing.

“Plaintiff had never worked this job before and she was never given any training or instructions how to safely perform the job assignment,” the suit claims.

Stoker claims there were pallets of boxes in the area that made working difficult because of a lack of space.

She says she was struck in the head by a shackle, and the hook on the shackle caught the hairpiece she was wearing and dragged her down the line by the head and neck.

“Plaintiff called out for help as she was being lifted off her feet by the overhead shackle, but for some unknown reason, no one on the floor immediately pulled the card used to stop the movement of the overhead line in an emergency,” the suit states.

Finally, a man named Joe pulled the emergency card causing the line to stop, the suit says.

“The delay in engaging this safety feature caused additional injuries to plaintiff,” according to the suit.

By this time, the suit says Stoker had lost consciousness and was taken to the nurse’s station.

“After regaining consciousness, Plaintiff was nauseated and experiencing excruciating pain in her head, neck and body,” the lawsuit states.

The nurse had Stoker placed in a car and accompanied her to the emergency room at the East Texas Medical Center in Carthage.

According to Medical Center records, a doctor diagnosed with a head contusion and Grade 1 concussion.

The suit states Stoker continued to suffer pain so she went to the Good Shepherd Medical Center emergency room in Marshall. There a doctor diagnosed her with closed head trauma and an acute concussion without loss of consciousness.  He performed a CT scan of the plaintiff’s brain and the scan came back normal, according to the suit.

Through 2012 and 2013, the plaintiff continued to suffer from pain in her neck, low back and shoulder. Subsequent MRI scans showed disc bulges and stenosis in the spine.

On Oct. 25, an orthopedic surgeon performed an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion therapy to repair the injuries to the plaintiff’s cervical spine, according to the suit.

Stoker accuses Tyson of negligence for failing to provide a safe place to work, failing to properly train plaintiff how to perform the jobs she is assigned, failing to warn of any hazards or risks associated with the job, failing to train other workers how to shut off the plant’s machinery in the event of an emergency and failing to insure that all equipment was safe for use and fitted with all necessary guards and protections.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for past medical expenses, which the suit states is currently in excess of $200,000, and future medical expenses. She is also suing for loss of earning capacity, disfigurement, impairment, pain and suffering, interest, costs and exemplary damages.

D. Scott Carlile of The Carlile Law Firm LLP in Marshall is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to Judge Rodney Gilstrap.

Case No. 2:14-cv-00002

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