Defendant's Attorney: Brian M. Self, Evan G E Vincent, John T. Stone Rodney L. Cook
Description: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma personal injury lawyer represented Plaintiff who sued Defendant on a negligence theory.
This case stems from an injury caused by the 3-Hydro-IX Grinder (“Grinder”), a machine manufactured by Defendant JWC Environmental, Inc. (“JWC”). Earlier versions of the Grinder were primarily used at wastewater treatment facilities. By shredding “tough solids” encountered in sewage lines, Grinders prevented downstream pipes, pumps, and valves from becoming clogged and damaged. Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 18 at 1. Now, Grinders are also used by solids-control technicians to shred drill cuttings at oil and gas
well sites. By “grinding down rocks and other debris,” Grinders “protect downstream equipment, such as pumps, centrifuges and heat exchangers.” Id., Ex. 19 at 2.
On October 24, 2018, Plaintiff Jacob Haygood was working as a solids-control technician at an oil and gas well site in Grady County, Oklahoma. At the well site, a Grinder was being used during the course of solids control operations.While working near the Grinder, Plaintiff inadvertently dislodged a pin from a catwalk stationed above the Grinder. After he was unable to immediately locate the pin, he concluded that it fell into the Grinder's cutting chamber. In an effort to extract the pin, Plaintiff removed the Grinder's inspection plate. Although Plaintiff did not turn the Grinder's power switch from “on” to “off,” he observed, upon removing the inspection plate, that “[n]othing was going on” inside the cutting chamber, which caused him to conclude “the machine was off.” JWC's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 3 at 9-10. After he reached his hand into the cutting chamber for a second time, the Grinder restarted, and ultimately caused the injuries which form the basis of the present action.
All Grinders are equipped with a lock out, tag out system (“LOTO”). The LOTO system is a safety mechanism which allows users to “de-energize” the Grinder; it cannot be re-energized until the lockout is removed. See JWC's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex 1 at 11-12. JWC also issued an operation and use manual with the subject Grinder. The manual instructs the Grinder's users as follows:
DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY MAINTENANCE ON THE EQUIPMENT DURING A POWER LOSS, THE GRINDER MAY START, STOP, REVERSE, OR RESTART AUTOMATICALLY AFTER POWER LOSS AND RECOVERY. ELECTRICAL LOCKOUT PROCEDURES MUST BE PERFORMED PRIOR TO SERVICING ANY EQUIPMENT OR CONNECTED EQUIPMENT.
Id., Ex. 8 at 3. It also advises users to:
VERIFY AND ENSURE POWER TO THE MOTOR CONTROLLER IS REMOVED, LOCKED OUT, AND TAGGED BEFORE PERFORMING ANY INSTALLATION, SERVICE, OR MAINTENANCE TASK INCLUDING THE REMOVAL OR ATTEMPTING TO REMOVE ANY OBSTRUCTION(S) FROM THE GRINDER.
Id. at 2. In addition, a warning label was affixed to the Grinder at issue, which read:
DANGER: SEVERE PERSONAL INJURY COULD RESULT IF HANDS, CLOTHING, HAIR, ETC. BECOME CAUGHT IN THE CUTTING CHAMBER. THIS EQUIPMENT REQUIRES ELECTRICAL LOCKOUT PROCEDURES PRIOR TO SERVICING OR REMOVAL OF ANY COVERS OR GUARDS.
Id. at 6.
The LOTO system was the Grinder's primary safety feature; the Grinder was not equipped with an interlock device, which would effectively eliminate power to the Grinder should a user open the inspection port. Although Plaintiff received training from Clean Harbors regarding appropriate LOTO procedures, he failed to lock and tag out the Grinder prior to removing its inspection port and reaching his hand into the cutting chamber.
Plaintiff argues that, because the Grinder lacked an interlock device, it was “defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous” when used as a cuttings conditioner at oil and gas well sites. Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 2-3. Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges the following causes of action against JWC: (1) strict product liability; (2) negligence: product liability; (3) gross negligence: product liability; and (4) breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.
Outcome: Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his strict product liability claim, while JWC seeks summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's strict product liability, negligence, and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability claims. JWC also seeks summary judgment regarding the issue of punitive damages. For the reasons that follow, JWC's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 67] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART; Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 48] is DENIED.
Haygood v. JWC Envtl. (W.D. Okla. 2023)