Broward Circuit Judge Mily Rodriguez-Powell has dismissed a personal injury lawsuit filed by an employee against Waste Management Inc. of Florida and other defendants following an accident involving a wood chipper.
The claim was filed last year by Andres Morera, a company employee who was seriously injured Nov. 4, 2010. Morera received workers’ compensation benefits but sued for damages.
Rodriguez-Powell explained in the four-page order that civil personal injury lawsuits by employees against employers under the workers’ compensation statute are allowed as “the rarest of exceptions to the immunity granted to the employer.”
An employee would have to prove Waste Management knew there was a danger and concealed it to pursue damages outside the workers’ comp arena, the judge said.
Rodriguez-Powell noted Waste Management showed at a May 1 hearing that there were no insurance claims related to the wood grinder and Morera was the only worker to be injured.
Steven Osber of Kelley Kronenberg in Fort Lauderdale, who represented the defendants, said Morera was pulled into the grinder and lost three fingers and part of his right hand. Valerie Barnhart, an associate at the firm assisted Osber.
“It was an unfortunate accident that occurred, but the allegation made against my clients were unfounded as the facts made clear,” Osber said.
The other defendants included Twin Lakes Land Reclamation Inc., Waste Collection Inc., GL Staffing Services Inc. and fellow employee Henry Juarez.
Morera’s attorney, Mary M. Schneider of DLD Lawyers in Miami, had no comment by deadline.