Penn and Seaborn, along with Greg Allen of Beasley Allen settled a lawsuit brought against Tigercat Industries, Inc.
Our client, Keith Pelham, received a crushing injury to his hips and bowel from a dropping dozer blade on a Tigercat 620-C Skidder. Keith was attempting to disconnect a tow chain when the accident happened. Keith had been a logger for over 10 years. Keith was helping Brian Green, another experienced logger, pull the skidder out of mud. Brian worked for a different logging company whose job site was near where Keith was working. Brian asked Keith to help him after getting his machine stuck. Keith was under the dozer blade at the front of the Tigercat Skidder, unhooking the chain from the tow lug, when Brian decided to step out of the Tigercat and see if he could assist. When Brian stepped out of the Tigercat cab, his shirt tail got caught on the control handle for the dozer blade, causing the blade to drop.
The Tigercat is designed so that when a control handle is activated, it causes the engine to rev and the dozer blade moves under power and quickly. The dozer blade hit a stump as it hit Keith, which prevented Keith from being cut in half. Through discovery, we learned that Tigercat had originally designed the skidder with buttons at the top of the control handles. With the original design, the operator was required to push the button and move the control handle to activate the blade. The button on the handle was designed to prevent inadvertent control handle activation. Tigercat had also designed the machine with a button on top of the wench control lever.
Studies go back to the 1950s, where control handles on machines like the skidder are required to have a secondary motion or some other form of interlock to prevent inadvertent actuation. This danger has been well-known throughout the industry for many years. We learned that after Tigercat designed the switch interlock it received complaints from some operators that the button made it difficult to use the dozer control handle effectively. As a result of the complaints, Tigercat elected to deactivate the switch in the dozer control handle, but it did not. Tigercat did not deactivate the wench handle.
We discovered that the switch was still in place on the dozer handle of the machine. The switch was electronically deactivated by Tigercat. But Tigercat took no steps to minimize the danger of control handle inadvertent activation on the dozer blade control. We were able to determine that if the handle switch had been activated, this accident could not have happened.
As a result of this accident, Keith Pelham now has a permanent limp and is in constant pain. He was not able to return to the logging industry and was determined to be 100% vocationally disabled. Part of his bowel had to be removed. Keith’s primary problem is that he wants to work but because of his disabling injury he cannot work. He was a good and hard-working person and he misses his job. The case was settled at the pretrial conference for a confidential amount for Keith and his wife, Leslie. Penn and Seaborn, along with Greg Allen of Beasley Allen, handled the case. Greg did an outstanding job.