Mora vs. Hollywood Bed & Spring Mfg. Co., et al.


    Yoka & Smith successfully argued and won a motion for summary judgment in this claim against Hollywood Bed & Spring Mfg. Co. The plaintiff was injured while operating a power press machine at Hollywood Bed's manufacturing facility in Commerce, California. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff placed his left arm underneath the point of operation guard affixed to the press while attempting to perform an adjustment on the press. While doing so, and without turning the press off, the plaintiff accidentally pressed the actuation lever with his abdomen, causing the press to cycle and crush the plaintiff's left arm. The plaintiff's left arm was ultimately amputated above the elbow.

    As a result of the accident, the plaintiff filed a Labor Code section 4558 claim against Hollywood Bed. Labor Code section 4558 is an exception to the exclusive remedy of worker's compensation for individuals injured on the job. Under this code section, the plaintiff had the burden of proof to establish that the press did not have a point of operation guard affixed to it and that Hollywood Bed specifically authorized the removal or failure to install such a guard. Further, the plaintiff had to show that such a guard was required by the manufacturer of the press, that the manufacturer conveyed these requirements to Hollywood Bed, and that Hollywood Bed intentionally did not follow these requirements.

    In defense, Mr. Leos presented undisputed evidence that, in fact, the press at issue was properly guarded, and that Hollywood Bed did not specifically authorize the removal of the guard or the failure to install such a guard. Further, Mr. Leos established that Hollywood Bed never received any instructions or requirements directly from the manufacturer of the press concerning point of operation guarding on the press at issue.

    The court took Hollywood Bed's argument under submission and within two weeks issued its ruling and granted Hollywood Bed's motion for summary judgment based upon the undisputed evidence Mr. Leos presented at the summary judgment hearing.

    Following Mr. Leos' successful argument, the court revisited and reversed its prior denial of defendant Larry Harrow's motion for summary judgment and granted Mr. Harrow's motion. Mr. Harrow is the president of Hollywood Bed and plaintiff was suing Mr. Harrow under the same Labor Code section as Hollywood Bed.

    Plaintiff appealed the trial court's decision. In his appeal, plaintiff argued that there was evidence that his employer had been told by the press manufacturer that a point-of-operation guard was required for all punch press machines and that there was also evidence that a safety guard had been removed from the machine when it was first installed by Hollywood Bed in the 1980s. Additionally, plaintiff alleged that since his employer admitted to knowledge about the dangers of using a punch press without a guard, and since the punch press did not have the types of safety equipment required to eliminate those risks, a jury could conclude that the employer specifically authorized the removal of the point-of-operation guard.

    Affirming the trial court's summary judgment ruling the Second Appellate District Court held in a published decision that a plaintiff seeking the benefits of the punch press exception under Labor Code section 4558 must establish evidence that the employer actually authorized the removal or noninstallation of the guard. Simply alleging that the employer had knowledge of the danger and that it failed to remedy the condition is not enough to trigger liability.

    On September 10, 2008, the California Supreme Court denied plaintiff's petition for review and request for immediate stay.

    For a PDF of the Published Decision click here (35KB).

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