Operator assumes risk of injury and loses liability suit

Irshard Karim operated a large corrugated-cardboard-folding machine at Mid-Atlantic Packaging in Montgomeryville, Pa. On Feb. 7, 2001, Karim was programming the Tanabe 1, a machine that folds corrugated cardboard for complicated box designs. The programmi

Irshard Karim operated a large corrugated-cardboard-folding machine at Mid-Atlantic Packaging in Montgomeryville, Pa. On Feb. 7, 2001, Karim was programming the Tanabe 1, a machine that folds corrugated cardboard for complicated box designs. The programming process required Karim to enter a series of codes into computers at each stage of the machine. During the setup process, several gear-driven chains and sprockets moved. After Karim punched in the last set of codes into the computer for the automatic setup, he noticed a manual-control-switch box hanging at the rear of the machine, near an unguarded sprocket and chain. Normally, the manual-control-switch box was left in the "up" position where it was away from any moving parts of the Tanabe 1. As Karim reached in to reposition the box, a metal ring attached to the top of the switch caught in the sprocket and pulled Karim's hand into the machine, partially amputating one of his fingers. Karim filed a strict-liability suit against Tanabe Machinery Ltd., the maker of the folding machine, asserting the machine was dangerous and defective because it contained unguarded chains and sprockets within reach of the operators. Tanabe asked the trial court to grant summary judgment for it because Karim had assumed the risk of his injury.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania stated, "Under Pennsylvania law, assumption of the risk remains a complete defense to a strict-liability claim, as well as a negligence claim. To prevail, a defendant must show that plaintiff knew of the defect and voluntarily proceeded to encounter a known danger."

The court noted Karim testified he was concerned that the control box could get caught in the chains and in reaching for the control box, he made special effort not to grab the chain. In granting judgment for Tanabe, the court concluded, "We find the Plaintiff was aware of the known danger before he proceeded to grab the box, and thus assumed the risk of his injury."

Karim v. Tanabe Machinery Ltd., 322 F.Supp. 578 (E.D.Pa. 2004), U. S District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, May 25, 2004.

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