Risky Business: Quitter splitter
By Ashleigh Petersen Mary Ann Gormly, CERP
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Risky Business: Quitter splitter

Negligence leads to nearly $500,000 settlement

A regular customer rented a log splitter and one of their employees injured her hand while using the machine. The customer let the rental store employees know about the injury when they returned the machine.

Just a few days later notice of an attorney representing the injured person was received by the rental store owner. That document and the facts of the accident as they knew them were sent to their insurance company where a claim was started. While investigating the claim, the insurance adjuster requested an inspection of the log splitter by an expert.

Per expert inspection, this accident happened when the young lady was positioning a log on the machine. When the lever that moves the wedge is in the middle position, the wedge should be stopped but instead, it continues to move forward almost unperceptively, creeping slowly. If the machine had been moving at its regular forward speed, the employee would have lost her hand but the person with her pulled the lever back before she got the full force of the pressure. The expert opined that the lever should have been replaced or repaired by the rental store. It appears the rental store employees may have been aware of the creeping but had not corrected the issue.

Shorty after the inspection, suit was filed by the attorney representing the injured person. The suit alleged that the rental store employee who rented the log splitter to the contractor:

  • Did not demonstrate its operation, or ensure that the equipment was in a reasonably safe working order, or ensure that it was safe for its intended purposes.
  • Did not supply appropriate safety instruction or warnings concerning the safe use of the log splitter.
  • Did not verify that the log splitter had been maintained properly.

The suit goes on to allege that the rental store was aware of the log splitter’s dangerous condition which included, but were not limited to, a compromised hydraulic control system, fluid leaks and compromised safety devices.

While operating the log splitter, the contractor employee’s right hand was crushed and lacerated when the log splitter ram activated unexpectedly while her hand was in the space between the ram and the maul components of the log splitter.

And finally, the suit states that the disfigurement of an injured younger person’s arm is not favorable and due to the malfunction of the machine and the rental store’s negligence, the injured person suffered and will suffer indefinite injuries and damages including but not limited to:

  • Displaced fractures of the right hand, extensive soft tissue derangement, open laceration, and nerve, tendon, ligament and muscle damages.
  • Medical therapy and surgical expenses in the past and future.
  • Permanent scarring.
  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of earning capacity and loss of wages.

The rental store owner was interviewed by the defense counsel hired by the insurance company to represent the rental store. The owner admitted that while they did maintain their machines, they did not keep records proving that was done. There was no documentation to indicate employees of the rental store provided instruction on the proper use of the log splitter.

At mediation many months later, the injured person was awarded a settlement totaling nearly half a million dollars for the disfigurement of her hand and arm.

Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the associate editor for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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