$2,000,000 settlement – the short story
Our Client lost almost all of his right hand when a large industrial bread slicer turned on as our Client was cleaning the blades. The machine had a safety feature that prevented it from turning on when any of the machine’s doors were open. But, the company that sold our Client the machine disabled the safety feature – something our Client had no idea of. As our Client was cleaning the blades by hand, the blades turned on, and our Client’s hand was caught between the blades.
Without going into the truly gruesome details, our Client’s hand was severely injured by the blades. He was rushed to Fannin Regional Hospital and then airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Jay lost a number of fingers and significant functioning in his right hand. Thankfully, Jay received incredible treatment from his doctors and his hand has improved, although the injury will be permanent.
The seller of the machine had $2,000,000 in insurance, and we were able to recover the full $2,000,000 without filing a lawsuit. We hired an expert to test the machine and demonstrated to the other side exactly how and why the machine turned on. The Rafi Law Firm’s mission is to maximize the recovery of every case – and the sooner we can do that, the better. By obtaining the full amount of available insurance even before filing a lawsuit, we were able to complete our mission without the time and delays associated with the litigation process.
$2,000,000 settlement – the long story
Jay and Lone Hansen married in 1991 and have a son named Nickey. Jay and Lone operated 7 restaurants in Denmark, which translated to English, were named “Mrs. Hansen’s Diner.” Their goal was always to move to the US and start a bakery, and just months before this incident, they succeeded—as the Fannin Sentinal News put it, this was a “Life-Long Dream Realized”:
In 2015, Jay and Lone moved from Denmark to Blue Ridge, Georgia, to start a bread company focused on Nordic rye breads – they were going to live out their dream.
The Bread Slicer
A bread company needs a bread slicer, so Jay hired a broker to find one. The broker directed Jay to Bakeryequipment.com, which was selling a slicer and bagger. Bakeryequipment.com invited Jay to its Missouri location so it could demonstrate the machine in action for him.
On January 28, 2016, Jay and a helper traveled to Missouri for the demonstration. Jay took many photographs and videos of the machine, so he could share them with his investors in Denmark. Jay purchased the machine, which was comprised of 2 main components: a slicer and bagger. This is a photograph of the machine:
Here is how the machine works: bread is loaded onto a short conveyer belt that moves bread into the slicer. The slicer has 24 serrated blades—12 on each side, which are housed in a metal compartment that looks like an oversized gym locker. The slicer has 6 doors, and the 2 main doors are on opposite sides of the machine. In the photograph above, I have labeled one of the main doors, and this is the door relevant to Jay’s eventual injury; its counterpart is on the opposite side of the machine. When turned on, the blades move back and forth in an action that resembles the repeated interlocking and separating of two hands.
After the bread is sliced, a conveyer belt brings the bread from the slicer to the bagger, which does exactly what you would expect—bags the bread.
The slicer has a control panel that resembles a high-end outdoor grill:
The “start” button is the green button to the right of the large red button.
The slicer was designed so it will not turn on unless all of its doors are closed. Inside each door is a yellow safety sensor where the door meets the metal frame of the machine – this is a photograph of the safety sensor for the main door, which is labeled on the first photograph above:
When closed, part of the metal door touches the sensor. The machine will only turn on when every sensor is touching metal, letting the machine know every door is closed. If every sensor is not touching metal, then the machine will not turn on—even if someone presses the start button.
Jay bought the machine from Bakeryequipment.com, and on February 18, 2016, Bakeryequipment.com delivered the slicer and conveyer belt to Jay. On February 22, 2016, Bakeryequipment.com delivered the bagger. From February through late May 2016, Jay and Lone used and cleaned the machine without incident.
The Machine Malfunction
On May 26, 2016, Jay was performing routine cleaning of the slicer. Jay was down on one knee cleaning the blades. He had a spray bottle of solution in his left hand and a cloth in his right hand. Jay sprayed the solution on the blades and then wiped them clean. After spraying the solution, Jay reached up with his left hand to rest the spray bottle on the slicer. As he did that, the pull-handle on the spray bottle hit the start button. This is a photo we took to recreate what happened:
When the pull-handle hit the on button, the machine turned on, and the blades started slicing. Jay’s right hand was trapped between the blades, and the blades sliced his hand over and over and over. Jay pulled his hand out as the blades continued to slice him.
Lone was working in the office adjacent to where Jay was. Lone heard Jay screaming, rushed in, and saw blood everywhere. Lone immediately got Jay into their car and drove to Fannin Regional Hospital. From Fannin, Jay was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
What The Company That Sold The Machine Did Wrong
On or before January 28, 2016, when Bakeryequipment.com demonstrated the machine for Jay, it disabled at least 5 of the 6 sensors by duct-taping a metal washer to each sensor. Before delivering the slicer to Jay, Bakeryequipment.com failed to remove the metal washers or otherwise reengage the sensors. This photograph Jay took during the demonstration clearly shows a washer duct-taped to one of the safety sensors:
This is a photograph of one of the metal washers that had been duct-taped to a sensor:
And, here is another:
Our Investigation and Expert
We hired an expert in mechanical engineering to test the machine. On November 2, 2016, we performed a machine inspection and demonstration. We were able to prove that when a metal washer was duct-taped to a sensor, the machine would turn on even when the door that corresponded with that sensor was open. Our expert further showed that when the safety sensors were not disabled by metal washers, then the machine would not turn on when the doors were open. We believe this demonstration was extremely important for us to convince the seller’s insurance company to pay their insurance limits.
Jay suffered an incredibly painful and permanent injury. Jay will never have use of his right hand again and will continue to have pain for the rest of his life. Jay has a total loss of his long and ring fingers, which were amputated. He has significant range of motion and strength losses in the remaining fingers. Jay had months of treatment and his medical bills were more than $160,000.
Jay is doing much better now, although his injury will be permanent. He has been steadily adapting to changes because of his injury, and is hopeful he will be back to doing the things he loves very soon. He and his wife are incredible people, and our Firm is extremely proud to have worked for them and thankful that Jay and Lone trusted in us.