Maintenance Worker Loses Fingers While Servicing Coffee Grinder

This case involves an accident to a maintenance worker. The plaintiff regularly performed repair work on coffee grinders. On the day in question, the plaintiff was called to repair a large coffee grinder. The grinder had a safety mechanism, a switch that needed to be pushed in (in addition to the on/off switch) in order for the grinder to work. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the coffee store had taped over the switch in order to grind coffee faster. While the plaintiff was examining the blades which cut the coffee beans, his knee grazed the on/off switch, causing the blades to begin spinning. The plaintiff lost four fingers and was unable to work for three months.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Was the coffee store negligent in taping over the safety switch to the coffee grinder?

Expert Witness Response

Based on the facts, the coffee store appears to be negligent. When examining large coffee grinders, due to the size of the blades, there are usually a number of safety mechanisms put in place. These can include a time delay (once the machine is turned on), a warning noise, or multiple switches. Also, coffee grinder manufacturers are able to customize the machine to best suit the safety concerns with the individual model. In this case, the coffee shop should not have taped over one of the safety switches. This is definitely a hazard, and may even violate some food regulations. I would have to review the specifics of the case further, but based on the initial facts presented, it appears that the coffee store would be liable. I have over seventeen years of experience dealing with issues of food safety, especially pertaining to kitchen and coffee equipment.

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