Lawsuit alleges negligence by robotics manufacturers led to industrial accident

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A Michigan man is suing auto parts supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp. and four robotics companies after his wife died in an industrial accident at an auto parts molder in Ionia, Mich.

In a lawsuit filed March 7 at U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Mich., William Holbrook claims the accident at Ventra Ionia LLC, a subsidiary of Flex-N-Gate that specilizes in chrome-plated plastics, bumpers and trailer hitches, was due to negligence and/or improper design by those who manufactured, installed and serviced the automation system.

According to the suit, Wanda Holbrook was working at Ventra Ionia in July 2015, performing maintenance duties on robots in a section of the weld department when a robot from another section "took Wanda by surprise, entering the section she was working in.

"The robot hit and crushed Wanda's head between a hitch assembly it was attempting to place in the fixture of section 140, and a hitch assembly that was already in the fixture," the lawsuit states.

Holbrook was found non-responsive by other employees and pronounced dead on the scene.

Defendants Fanuc America Corp., Nachi Robotic Systems Inc. and Lincoln Electric Co. manufactured the robots, controllers, tooling, part fixtures, welding process equipment and/or safety devices used within cell; and defendants Flex-N-Gate, and Prodomax Automation Ltd., along with Lincoln Electric, performed the installation, integration, engineering, and servicing of components, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges the automation system failed to meet numerous safety regulations. William Holbrook is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.