It was just another work day for Rafael Jimenez, a veteran tree trimmer in his 24th year on the job.
But as he stuffed branches from a Chinese elm tree into a wood chipper, his right hand became entangled in the branches and Jimenez found himself being jerked toward the steel knives.
The machine, which devours a 20-inch branch in a second, consumed nearly his entire body.
His wife and four children filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that the manufacturer of the machine, Michigan-based Morbark, knew for years that its safety features were insufficient and had done nothing to prevent injuries and deaths like Jimenez’s.
The family’s attorney, Edward Steinbrecher, said Morbark — one of the largest manufacturers of wood chippers — has taken the position in previous lawsuits that the operators have been at fault for any injuries.
The Morbark wood chipper has pull cords inside its chute designed to stop the machine in case of an emergency, but Steinbrecher says the cords are inadequate because they cannot be accessed by someone being pulled down the chute.
According to a 2005 report by the American Medical Assn., wood chippers were responsible for 31 deaths and 2,042 injuries from 1992 to 2002.
A motorist spotted Jimenez being pulled into the machine and honked his horn to alert the partner, but Jimenez disappeared into the machine before he or the driver could do anything.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health conducted an investigation into Jimenez’s death and issued three citations against Inglewood in October, including a serious violation for failing to develop a written emergency procedure to stop the machine. The city was ordered to pay a fine of more than $22,000, but has appealed the citation.
His 19-year-old son, Rafael Jimenez Jr., said his father arrived in the U.S. as a 17-year-old and worked his way up from a groundskeeper picking up trash to a senior tree trimmer supervising crews on the job.
If you or a family member has been injured because of the fault of someone else; by negligence, personal injury, slip and fall, car accident, medical malpractice, trucking accident, drunk driving, bad product, toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Product Liability Personal Injury Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.