Farm worker, legs crushed in accident, gets chance for trial

By Dee Thompson | Jul 20, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsine) – A farm worker whose legs were crushed in an accident has been granted another chance for his case to be heard.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsine) – A farm worker whose legs were crushed in an accident has been granted another chance for his case to be heard.

The opinion in the case of Nereus Montemayor v. Sebright Products Inc. was filed in the Minnesota Supreme Court on July 12.

Nereus Montemayor was hired by VZ Hogs in 2011. The company produces hog feed and raises hogs. Montemayor sustained an injury when he was trying to clear a jam from an extruder built by Sebright Products Inc. Montemayor brought a products liability case alleging design defects and failure to warn. 

The district court ruled that the injury was not reasonably foreseeable and Sebright didn’t owe a duty of care to Montemayor, granting summary judgment to Sebright. After Montemayor appealed that ruling, the Court of Appeals affirmed it.

Hog feed is processed by VZ Hogs using a high-density extruder made by Sebright. The suit states Montemayor was instructed to clear a jam in the machine, but not told how to do it. 

Montemayor allegedly had not read the manual or received any training on how to accomplish clearing the jam. While trying to manually clear the chute, another worker operated the machine and crushed Montemayor’s legs. As a result, both legs were amputated above the knee. 

VZ Hogs was penalized $18,000 for violating safety procedures and failing to train employees. Montemayor brought products liability claims against Sebright alleging “(1) Sebright’s extruder design was defective because it allowed for the relocation of the six control panel without proper visibility of the discharge chute and did not include an alarm and delay upon startup; and (2) Sebright failed to adequately warn of the dangers that led to Montemayor’s injury,” according to the court opinion.

After discovery was conducted, Sebright filed a motion for summary judgment claiming the injuries Montemayor received weren’t reasonably foreseeable. The various experts retained by the parties disagreed on that.

The Supreme Court concluded in its opinion that “Viewing the evidence and the inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to Montemayor, reasonable persons might differ as to the foreseeability of Montemayor’s injury. Accordingly, this is a 'close case' in which foreseeability must be resolved by the jury. We therefore reverse and remand.”

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