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An Ohio appeals court held Wednesday that an employee who suffered severe injuries, including the amputation of three fingers, could proceed with his intentional tort and negligent inspection claims against his employer and two safety inspection companies.
In Logossou v. AdvancePierre Foods Inc., the Ohio Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed and remanded a trial court’s dismissal of the employee’s claims against his employer, AdvancePierre Foods, Inc. of Cincinnati, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., of Springdale, Arkansas, and two third parties.
On Aug. 26, 2015, the employee, Kossi Logossou, was using his hands to remove meat from the blades of a mixing machine when a coworker activated the power, causing him to sustain severe injuries to his hand. He filed an intentional tort claim against AdvancePierre, contending that the company removed the safety guard from the mixer and knew of the potential risks to him by using the equipment without the guard. He also filed a negligent inspection claim against two Ohio companies that had been hired to inspect AdvancePierre’s facility and its mixer.
The trial court dismissed his claims, holding that Ohio workers compensation statutes provided an exclusive remedy for his alleged injuries against his employer, and that he failed to establish that the safety and inspection companies owed him a duty.
Mr. Logossou appealed, arguing that the companies owed him a duty of care, and that it was foreseeable that he would be injured if they failed to properly inspect the mixer and ensure it complied with applicable safety standards and regulations. He alleged that the companies failed to ensure the mixer was safe, and that “as a direct and proximate result,” he suffered from severe injuries that included the amputation of three fingers.
The court held that Mr. Logossou presented enough evidence to draw a reasonable inference between his injury and the liability of the third parties for failing to exercise reasonable care, and that therefore, he could proceed with that claim.
The court also found that the trial court erred in dismissing the employee’s claim against AdvancePierre. The court noted that Ohio courts have found that when an employee provides sufficient evidence that an employer deliberately removed an equipment safety guard, “there is a rebuttable presumption of employer intent.”
Mr. Logossou testified that the company deliberately removed the safety guard and required him to operate the mixer without the guards. The court held Mr. Logossou’s assertion that the safety guard was deliberately removed was sufficient to proceed with his claims at this stage.
The court, therefore, reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case.
AdvancePierre Foods could not be reached for comment.
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