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Injured worker's verdict in spring factory accident upheld

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A Texas appellate court has upheld most of a $780,000 jury verdict against a Texas workers compensation nonsubscriber, finding that evidence supported the jury's award to an injured worker.

Joseph Favalora worked for Katy Spring & Manufacturing Inc. in Katy, Texas, which is a Texas nonsubscriber and does not purchase workers comp insurance, according to court filings. In October 2010, Mr. Favalora bent down to free a bundle of large-gauge wire used to make springs, and the wire hit Mr. Favalora in the chest.

Court documents state the company training program advised workers to “run away” in instances when the wire escaped from its reel.

Mr. Favalora was taken to an urgent care center, where he was diagnosed with a bruised chest, a neck sprain and cervical radiculopathy, records show. He received treatment for long-term chronic neck pain and numbness in his arm, and eventually had spinal surgery in March 2013.

Mr. Favalora sued Katy Spring in Harris County, Texas, court for negligence in his work accident. A jury awarded Mr. Favalora $779,627 in 2013 for various claims, including past medical expenses, lost earning capacity, future physical pain and suffering and future mental anguish, according to records.

Katy Spring appealed that decision, arguing that Mr. Favalora was the sole cause of his injuries, that the county court excluded evidence of prior illegal drug use by Mr. Favalora, and that evidence failed to show Katy Spring was negligent in Mr. Favalora's accident.

But the Texas Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling in a unanimous decision Thursday. The appellate court found that the jury award was based on sufficient evidence in Mr. Favalora's favor.

“Based on the testimony and evidence, reasonable jurors could have concluded that Katy Springs did not act as a reasonable employer when it allowed Favalora to work on the company-made reel that lacked any safety features and was recognized as being unsafe by several Katy Springs employees,” the ruling reads. “The evidence furnishes some reasonable basis for fair-minded people to reach the conclusion that Katy Springs breached its duty to provide Favalora with reasonably safe machinery.”

The court noted that Mr. Favalora's accident was foreseeable since Katy Spring built the reel that caused the wire to escape, and because the company had safety procedures related to such incidents.

“The company's training program included the instruction to 'run away' if the wire began to escape from the company-made reel,” the ruling reads. “The company-made reel had deep gouges that caused the wire to build tension during operation. An employee testified that wire had escaped from the gap on at least two prior occasions. Favalora testified that wire had escaped twice since he started working at Katy Springs. The jury could have concluded from this evidence that Katy Springs should have anticipated the dangers that its company-made reel posed.”

The appellate court found that evidence was insufficient to support an award of $100,000 for Mr. Favalora's future mental anguish, and deleted that portion of his jury award.