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Moren v. Samuel M. Langston Co.

MAY 27, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. THOMAS F. COURTNEY, Judge, presiding. Judgment reversed and cause remanded for new trial.


Rehearing denied July 1, 1968.

Plaintiff appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Cook County entered upon a jury verdict finding in favor of defendant in plaintiff's action for personal injuries.

At the time of his injury plaintiff was employed by Fort Wayne Corrugated Paper Company, hereafter referred to as Fort Wayne, at its plant in Chicago. He was one of a three-man crew operating a printer-slotter machine which had been manufactured by defendant. It had been installed in Fort Wayne's plant approximately 19 months prior to the date of plaintiff's injury.

The printer-slotter machine is described as being 11 feet, 4 3/8 inches in length and 13 feet, 2 inches wide. It will print and slot a corrugated paper sheet 42 inches in width and 94 inches long.

Plaintiff's position was that of "first helper" to the operator and his job was to feed the corrugated sheets into the press, put ink in the rollers, check the stops and put dies on the die cylinders.

Walter J. Goettsch, called by plaintiff under section 60 of the Civil Practice Act (c 110, Ill Rev Stats) testified that he was senior vice president of the defendant, and was the salesman who sold the machine to Fort Wayne. He described the printer-slotter as one of defendant's standard machines, entirely designed and engineered by defendant, and sold in the industry for the purpose of printing and slotting cardboard. The machine was shipped to Fort Wayne from defendant's plant in Camden, New Jersey, and the electric components were supplied by Reliance Electrical and Engineering Company under defendant's direction and purchase order. Included in the equipment which defendant furnished Fort Wayne, were stop or safety buttons designed to stop the machine, a safety bar to be mounted across the entrance to the roller area, and a microswitch which stopped the machine when the safety bar was lifted a fraction of an inch. The machine was equipped with a dynamic braking system which could be activated by various stop buttons and by the microswitch on the safety bar.

At the "feed-end" of the machine, where plaintiff was stationed, there are three stairs up to a catwalk. A passageway which gives access to the printing rollers on the machine forms a right angle with the catwalk. The stairs, the catwalk and the passageway are constructed of steel. The safety bar is installed across the entrance to the passageway, 27 inches above the floor of the catwalk. It is so mounted that when it is raised from the microswitch element, the dynamic braking system is activated. Once activated, the braking system can stop the rollers in a period of time ranging from a fraction of a second to several seconds, depending upon the speed at which the rollers were operating at the time.

Plaintiff testified that in order to prepare the machine for a run of cardboard he was required to lift the safety bar, remove the dies from the bottom roller, and staple on the new dies. That was the only time he was required to enter the passageway area.

On the date of the occurrence plaintiff had gone to work at 3:00 p.m. At about 7:00 p.m., after his lunch break, plaintiff was tightening some keys on the ink fountain. They had just finished an order, and the machine was running so that the ink in the printer could flow back to the fountain. This process took about 10 minutes, and when it was completed, plaintiff was required to clean out an ink trough above the fountain. He walked up the stairs to the entrance to the catwalk where rags were kept and saw a rag lying on the floor of the catwalk, stooped to pick it up, and as he pulled it toward him, part of the rag got caught in the roller and started pulling him toward the roller, he lifted the safety bar with his left hand, and at that time his right hand was "going into the roll, I let go of the bar and I grabbed with my left hand to try to pull my right hand out." As the result of the injuries suffered, plaintiff's arms were later amputated above the elbows.

Plaintiff's complaint, as amended, charges defective design in that the machine was not equipped with adequate safety devices or guards.

Plaintiff's first claim of error is that the court erred in excluding the testimony of plaintiff's expert on the ground that he was not qualified.

The testimony elicited by interrogation of the witness shows that he is a personnel and safety director employed by a company which manufactures paper cartons and shipping containers. His employer produces corrugated paper shipping containers. He had been with his employer since 1935. He received his degree at the University of Illinois, Class of 1925, as a graduate in mechanical engineering. He is also charged with the safety and accident prevention of another plant operated by his employer. He has been a member of the pulp and paper section of the National Safety Council for 25 years, and a member of the Safety and Industrial Relations Committee of the Folding Paper Box Association of America. The function of the National Safety Council is to promote safety in all of the industries in America. It includes the printing industry.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, he worked for Western Electric for 6 years as a mechanical engineer in their machinery development division.

The National Safety Council publishes newsletters which are published and distributed monthly. He personally prepared some of these newsletters.

His company uses Langston printer-slotters, and he is also familiar with printer-slotter machines manufactured by other companies. He has seen Langston printer-slotter machines in operation at his employer's plant and at other plants in the industry. He had not had ...

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