An Alabama judge has awarded $3 million to the family of an employee killed in an accident at extrusion firm ABC Polymer Industries LLC, saying that the worker was put in an "unreasonably dangerous situation" because of the company's safety practices.
In a June 14 decision cataloguing safety breakdowns, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Elisabeth French ruled that company officials are liable in the August 2017 death of Catalina Estillado.
Estillado was pulled into an extrusion line at production speed and crushed while trying to clear materials.
In a 10-page ruling, French said that company executives did not properly install a limiting switch on the line to slow its speed if employees were trying to clear materials and did not properly train employees.
"The evidence clearly establishes that [executives] removed a safety guard or device by either failing to install the interlocking limit switch and/or bypassing a safety device by training employees to cut wraps by lifting the barrier guard while the rollers were in operation," French wrote.
An attorney for Estillado's widower, Crescencio Pablo, said it was a preventable death.
"This was a tragedy for the family," said William Traylor, an attorney with the Birmingham, Ala., firm of Yearout & Traylor PC. "The machine was designed and manufactured with a guard that would have prevented Catalina's death.
"The guard was never installed and Catalina was performing her job as she was trained to do, and cutting a wrap at production speed when the incident occurred," he said.
ABC Polymer, its CEO Randy Reed and attorneys for two executives named in the suit, Dean Leader and William Durall, did not respond to a request for comment. Leader had been vice president of operations and Durall had been director of operations.
The incident happened at ABC's headquarters facility in Helena, Ala. The company makes bulk bags, or flexible intermediate bulk containers, for industrial customers.