Safety and OSHA News

Jury awards $15M to worker whose foot was crushed by forklift

This worker has had seven surgeries to repair his foot after it was run over by a 58,000-pound forklift. A jury says the company that owned the forklift now owes him $15.2 million.

Thomas Neuhengen, 33, had to have his heel amputated after his left foot was crushed during the teardown of the 2012 International Manufacturing Technology Show at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago.

Doctors used leeches in a failed attempt to maintain blood flow to a part of Neuhengen’s foot after the incident. They later grafted thigh muscle onto his heel.

It’s likely he will lose his job as a staff sergeant with the Wisconsin National Guard because of his injuries.

The jury ordered Global Experience Specialists (GES) to pay Neuhengen $12.2 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages. Neuhengen had sought a total of $25 million. GES had argued for a $3.2 million payout, claiming Neuhengen was partly to blame for his own injury.

Neuhengen was working as a spare parts manager for Hemle Machine Co. LLC when he was struck by the 29-ton machine.

OSHA said GES, the company that set up the show, failed to ensure the forklift driver who hit Neuhengen was trained and certified. GES also failed to hire a spotter who could have prevented the collision, according to OSHA.

GES was fined $91,000 by OSHA for one willful and three serious violations. One serious violation was withdrawn, and GES paid a total of $74,000. The company had been cited twice before for employing uncertified forklift drivers.

“I’m glad that the jury acted in such a way that this will never happen to anyone else,” Neuhengen said in a statement released by his lawyer.

GES released a statement describing the company as “a safety leader in our industry” and said it was “disappointed by the jury’s decision.”

Neuhengen is a military veteran who served two tours in Iraq.

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