A Texas federal jury has returned a $2.2 million verdict against Tyson Foods Inc. The jurors found that the company’s negligence caused a worker’s injuries on one occasion. But the jury found that the company couldn’t be blamed for two other incidents. The jury determined that the food giant’s negligence led to Asa Ferrell’s lower back injury in August 2013 while separating and sorting boxes weighing 65 to 100 pounds in a “uniquely confined space.” However, the jurors weren’t convinced that injuries resulting from an overhead door striking Ferrell could be traced to Tyson’s negligence.
The workers’ complaint sought damages for injuries he blamed on Tyson’s dangerous work environment and the negligence of another employee. It was contended that Tyson knew of the dangerous conditions, but failed to make changes or warn workers. The complaint stated:
Defendant had a duty to its employees to keep the working conditions and environment safe, make the working conditions and environment safe and/or warn others of dangers on said premises. This breach constitutes negligence, and such negligence was a proximate cause of the occurrence in question and the plaintiff’s resulting injuries.
In November 2012, Ferrell, a receiving dock worker, said he was operating an electric floor jack when another employee pulled down a cord to shut an overhead door, striking his neck and shoulder. Ferrell was again hit by an overhead door while operating a jack in May 2013, allegedly knocking him from the machine onto the floor. These incidents caused severe injuries to Ferrell’s neck, shoulder and lower back, the complaint said. The most recent incident was the box-lifting injury in August 2013. Though proper lifting procedures prevent lower back injuries, the unsafe workplace prevented appropriate lifting techniques and Tyson failed to provide necessary equipment or assistance, Ferrell alleged.
As a result of Tyson’s negligence and his injuries, Ferrell is permanently impaired, losing earnings and potential earnings as a result. He experienced pain and suffering as a result of the accidents and will continue to incur medical expenses. The complaint contended that Tyson is liable for all of Ferrell’s injuries as a nonsubscriber to Texas workers’ compensation.
The jury concluded that Ferrell failed to demonstrate that the first two accidents were caused by Tyson’s negligence, but awarded the worker damages for various elements related to the box-lifting incident. The damages award included $7,600 for medical expenses incurred in the past to $652,192 for pain and suffering in the future. Ferrell is represented by Marquette Wolf and Ted B. Lyon Jr. of Ted B. Lyon & Associates PC. The case was tried in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
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