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Appeals court reinstates widow’s wrongful death suit


A California appeals court ruled Monday that a trial judge was wrong to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit against Del Monte Foods Inc. brought by the widow of a worker who was crushed while performing loading dock maintenance.

The 5th District California Court of Appeals in Fresno, in Rafferty v. Del Monte Foods Inc., reversed the lower court decision that granted summary judgment in favor of Del Monte in a suit filed by Amanda Rafferty on behalf of her deceased husband, David Rafferty.

Mr. Rafferty was employed by J.M. Equipment Company Inc., which was contracted by Del Monte to clean and repair air-powered dock levelers. He was crushed to death on June 15, 2016, by a dock leveler platform.

Ms. Rafferty argued Del Monte failed to train workers on the safe operation of the dock leveler, while Del Monte contended  J.M. Equipment exercised control over Mr. Rafferty’s work and was responsible for employee safety.

In granting summary judgment, the trial court said there was no evidence Del Monte exercised control over J.M. Equipment employees.

The appeals court, in reversing that decision, said a jury could reasonably conclude that Del Monte’s alleged breach of its duties contributed to the death.