Ohio Employer Potentially Liable for Failure to Program Machine for All Safety Features

In most cases, an employee injured on the job only has a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation for medical bills and lost wages.  However, for some situations where the employer acted with an intent to injure the employee, the employee can bring a direct action against the employer in the court system.  The benefit to this is that the employee is allowed to recover for intangible losses such as pain and suffering and loss of ability to do certain activities, harms that cannot be recovered in the Worker's Compensation claim.

Ohio has a statute that sets forth when an employee may bring an action directly against an employer for an intentional tort.  The statute says that the "deliberate removal" of a safety guard by an employer gives rise to a rebuttal presumption that the removal was done with an intent to injure an employee.

A recent case has helped to define what is meant by a "deliberate removal".  In McKinney v. CSP of Ohio, LLC, the employee worked at a molding press.  The employee reported that certain safety features were not working on the press.  The supervisor told her that he would call maintenance but that the employee should continue working.  The employee was injured before maintenance arrived.

The machines had to be programmed so that the safety devices would work with new molds.  This had not been done.  The employees in charge of that programming were not available.

The trial court granted the employers' motion for summary judgment, finding that the company had not deliberately removed a safety guard.  The court of appeals disagreed and found that the employee had raised a rebuttable presumption that the company's actions was committed with an intent to injury.