WarehouseThe food giant Tyson Foods recently went to battle with one of its own employees after an accident on the job that was caused due to the companies failure to “ensure safe lifting procedures” for its employees. Asa Ferrell worked for Tyson Foods where one of the duties of his job included the sorting of boxes of meat that were stacked on pallets. One day, Asa was lifting packages weighing up to 110 pounds, all of a sudden Asa began to experience severe pain in his lower back.

Mr. Ferrell, age 55, was later diagnosed with herniated disks at L3-5. Epidural injections followed as well as physical therapy, both treatments failed to alleviate Asa’s pain so he underwent lumbar fusion surgery to correct the problem.  The entire procedure ended up leaving Asa with medical expenses that reached the $7600 mark.

Spinal Column Despite the surgery, Mr. Ferrell continues to experience pain and a limited range of motion in his lower back. This condition will require a lifelong pain management therapy for Mr. Ferrell including future pain injections and medications as well as home modifications to accommodate his reduced ability to reach and bend over. Mr. Ferrell was unable to return to work due to these injuries and has since lead a sedentary lifestyle that includes sitting and long periods of inactivity. Asa also suffers from depression that is related to his injuries and the impact they have taken on his life. Asa expects that his future medical expenses are estimated at about $425,000, Asa’s lost income totaled about $63,600, and his future lost earnings are estimated at $442,000.

Mr. Ferrell subsequently sued Tyson Foods, which had opted out of the Texas Workers’ Compensation system, alleging that Tyson failed to provide a safe workplace. Specifically, the Plaintiff contended that the plant violated ergonomic and safe-lifting guidelines established by the National Institute for Occupation  Safety and Health, as well as the plant’s own guidelines, by permitting him to lift the heavy boxes unassisted.

The Plaintiff’s safety engineering expert testified that the plant should have provided mechanical lifting equipment or required workers to lift weights above a specific amount together. He also testified that the room the plant provided for sorting boxes did not give workers enough space to work safely.

Tyson Foods plant denied that the boxes were too heavy or that the space provided was inadequate. The jury did not agree and awarded Mr. Ferrell $2.25 million.

 

Citation: Ferrell v. Tyson Foods, Inc., NO. 4:14-cv-00775 (E.D. Tex. Nov. 2015)

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Employment law governs the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. Most of the laws and statutes that fall under employment law are meant to protect the employee from unfair and unsafe working conditions, but they also help to protect employers.

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