Natalie Barnhard was working a fitness center as a trainer when a defective weight machine tipped and fell on her, crushing her vertebrae, and rendering her quadriplegic. Because the manufacturer denied all responsibility for its machine, Natalie pursued her case to trial, where the jury returned a verdict in her favor. The manufacturer appealed the verdict. Even though a jury of her peers had heard the case and already decided the amount she was to receive, the court of appeals in New York slashed the amount of money Natalie could receive. The ability for courts to, in effect, overrule a jury and reduce the award is called remittitur, and varies from state to state.
Natalie’s injuries happened back in 2004. Just last week, after making $43.1 million in just the fourth quarter of 2011, the manufacturer of the machine finally settled with Natalie.
What does this mean to you?
So why even bother pursuing a case if they just drag it out? In our legal system, individual people and their lawyers have the ability to hold the wealthiest companies responsible for their wrongdoing.
Is work ever “voluntary”? Setting aside questions of the neuroscience behind our actions, it is an interesting question to cogitate on. Once at work, we essentially must do what our employer asks, or else be fired. True, we certainly choose to have a job and go to work each day, but once there, can our actions be termed truly voluntary? Especially in this economy?
Putting a finer point on it, should an employee who uses a defective product at work (a press missing a safety guard, etc.) be allowed to make a claim against the manufacturer of the defective product?
He really, really wants to run that press all day.
I stumbled upon the website for an engineering firm in Texas called Nelson & Associates. It provides an excellent summary of the basic safety rules for creating and designing any product. Products must be designed according to the three E’s, in order of importance:
1. Eliminate hazards
2. Employ safety equipment
3. Educate users of foreseeable hazards
For the full post, go to their “Core Principles” page.