A man whose hand was maimed when a bread-slicing machine unexpectedly started as he was cleaning it, reached a $2 million settlement with the company that sold the device.
According to Rafi Law Firm principal Michael Rafi, key to the settlement was evidence that a safety feature that would have kept the machine from starting was disabled for a demonstration prior to sale.
Rafi’s client, Danish émigré Jorgen “Jay” Hansen, suffered a near total loss of the use of his right hand. A one-time champion water skier, a sailor who crossed the Atlantic twice, once alone and once with his son, and an accomplished golfer, Hansen is now unable to pursue his profession as a baker.
“The first thing Jay is going to do is go back to Denmark. This case is the main reason he stayed here after the accident,” said Rafi. “I think his goal is to learn how to sail again, and to live on a sailboat.”
According to Rafi and related documents, Hansen and his wife moved to Blue Ridge in 2015 to launch Nordic Rye, a bakery that specializes in Scandinavian rye breads.
Hansen went to Missouri the following year to see a machine that sliced and bagged loaves of bread. The machine was second-hand, and was offered for sale by Bakeryequipment.com, which advertises a variety of new and used equipment and related services.
Hansen took photos and videos of the machine to share with his investors in Denmark and purchased the machine. The machine has six doors that, when open, activate safety sensors to keep it from operating.
As Rafi explained, during the demonstration, Bakeryequipement.com staffers placed metal washers over the sensors so Hansen could watch the machine in action, including the portion that houses two opposing rows of 24 serrated blades that slice the loaves.
Hansen used the machine from February to May 2016 when he was cleaning the blade assemblies. As he reached up to place a spray bottle of cleaning solution on the conveyer, he hit the start button and the machine engaged.
Hansen’s right hand was caught between the moving blades, and portions of his thumb, three fingers and hand were mangled and sliced off.
Hansen, then 57, underwent multiple surgeries, but his hand was left severely disfigured, and he continued to suffer intense pain. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder and, in December 2016, suffered a fall when he was unable to grab a porch railing because of his nonfunctional hand.
Rafi said Bakeryequipment.com initially claimed the safety devices was not disabled, but an Aug. 27 demand letter—which included photos of Hansen’s injuries—featured pictures he took in Missouri showing washers taped over the sensors.
“We do not see this as a comparative negligence case,” the letter said. “As long as one of machine’s doors was open, Jay should have been able to tap, press, hold, or do anything to start button, without causing the machine to turn on. The reason the machine turned on was because Bakeyequipement.com had disabled the main door sensor (and 4 others).”
Bakeryequoipment.com had two insurance policies, and Rafi demanded the $1 million policy limit of each. Rafi said one carrier, Great American Insurance, tendered their $1 million readily. But “it was all-hands-on-deck” to get the second from StarStone, formerly known as Torus.
The settlement was finalized in early October, and the funds have been disbursed, Rafi said.
Bakeryequipment.com was represented by Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet partner Sean Keenan, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rafi said he expects Hansen to successfully rebuild his life back in Denmark.
“He’s someone who sets his mind to something and does it,” said Rafi. “He’s also lucky to have an amazing wife who has done everything you can imagine for him during his recovery.”