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Negligence suit in worker's death can proceed

Posted On: Apr. 5, 2023 11:03 AM CST


The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a negligence lawsuit filed by the estate of a worker who was fatally crushed in April 2019 at a tire mold manufacturing plant can proceed.  

The appeals court, in upholding a trial court decision, ruled that the estate of Desmond Japrael Stephens successfully pleaded that its civil suit against Charlotte-based King Machine of North Carolina should not be barred by exclusive remedy provisions in the state’s workers compensation law.

Mr. Stephens was crushed to death by a 2,000-pound metal tire mold that was being lifted by a forklift that had been modified without the approval of its manufacturer. Workplace safety regulators concluded that King Machine violated the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Act and that it committed a willful serious violation when it modified the forklift.

In upholding the lower court’s decision rejecting King Machine’s motion for dismissal, the appeals court ruled that the plaintiff successfully proved an exclusive remedy exception by establishing the company intentionally engaged in misconduct by modifying the forklift.