Products liability expert witness advises on farm worker’s injury from a harvester machine

Products liability expert witness - harvesterA products liability/consumer product safety expert witness advises on a case involving a farm worker who was struck in the head from a harvester machine’s moving parts. The plaintiff farm worker suffered head injuries when he was riding on the platform of a fruit harvester while at work. The plaintiff alleges he was struck by drive elements of the rotating rod picking system. It is not clear why the plaintiff was on the harvester’s platform.

He sued the manufacturer for products liability.



Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Was the farm equipment defective?
  • 2. Were the warnings sufficient?
  • 3. What OSHA regulations applied?
  • 4. What caused the accident?

Expert Witness Response

The harvester, platform and safety signs on the machine were not defective in design nor unreasonably dangerous when the harvester left the manufacturer’s control, nor when it was being used on the date of the injury. Additionally, the harvester was properly and sufficiently designed to prevent the injury of common users of the machine and bystanders. With normal operation of the machine, by complying with the instructions in the operator manual, including its safety message and warnings, and heeding the warning signs on the machine, the operator and crew members of the harvester are not exposed to the hazard of moving machinery parts, and are not at an unreasonable risk of injury.

Had the plaintiff heeded the warning on the sign on the harvester, the accident would not have occurred. Had the machine operator heeded this instruction and stopped the harvesting operation until such time that the plaintiff was no longer on the platform, the accident would not have occurred. The harvester was not being operated in accordance with OSHA safety standard 1928.57. The plaintiff’s presence on the platform was in direct violation of 1928.57(a)(6)(ii): “Permit no riders on farm field equipment other than persons required for instruction or assistance in machine operation.” Had the plaintiff heeded this OSHA regulatory requirement, this accident would not have happened.

The rotating system is an open and obvious hazard and one that the plaintiff should have appreciated and taken steps to avoid. The harvester’s rotating parts were sufficiently guarded and in compliance with safety standards. It was not reasonably foreseeable to the manufacturer’s engineers that a person would position himself on the platform in proximity to an open and obvious hazard while the harvesting machine was in operation.

The expert focuses on safety accident analysis and transportation. He has extensive experience in product design in the application of product safety principles and features including guards and safety signs to agricultural harvesting machinery. He has participated in the drafting, development and application of the agricultural equipment safety standards that are the subject of this matter.

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