A jury has awarded more than half a million dollars to a St. Louis man whose arms were crushed by more than a ton of bird seed in a workplace incident.
Albert Smith, 54, was a machine operator at Spectrum Brands in Earth City, MO. One day, straps snapped on a 2,500 pound seed bag being lifted overhead by an industrial scale. The bag broke, pinning Smith’s hands and arms against a sharp steel funnel.
Smith suffered broken bones, nerve and tendon damage, and a severed artery. He lost most of the use of his right hand and arm. Smith can still use his left hand, his dominant one.
Smith sued the scale’s manufacturer, St. Louis Scale Corp. Smith’s attorney, Rachel Roman, argued the scale lacked an industry standard safety guard.
St. Louis Scale argued it had offered a scale equipped with the safety guard to Spectrum Brands, but the company rejected it.
Roman said by removing four safety devices, the scale manufacturer was able to provide a bid that was $24,000 lower to Spectrum Brands. The attorney said St. Louis Scale removed the safety devices to make a sale.
A jury awarded Smith $550,000: $100,000 in punitive damages and $450,000 in compensatory damages, including payment of medical bills.
Smith returned to work at Spectrum Brands for three weeks after his injury, but left and now receives disability payments.
An interesting side note to this case: Right after Roman gave her opening statement, a juror suffered a seizure. Roman, who is also a registered nurse, assisted the juror with the help of another juror who was a paramedic.
Lawyers for St. Louis Scale asked for a mistrial, but the judge rejected the request and replaced the stricken juror with an alternate.