Steel worker seeks $200k after losing hand in recoiler

Steve Gonzalez May 15, 2008, 8:10am

A man who was injured working at a steel plant in Granite City filed a product liability and personal injury suit against a slew of defendants alleging their negligence led to his severe and permanent injuries.

According to a suit filed in Madison County Circuit Court, Charles Patout Ducey, Jr., claims he was working as an operator of a "recoiler" machine at The Steel Works, LLC, on May 9, 2006.

Ducey claims he was severely injured while checking for burs on the recoiler on the larger "slitting" line when his glove was caught on a bur and his hand was drug into the recoiler.

According to the complaint, the recoiler machine was manufactured and sold by Cauffiel Machinery of Toledo, Ohio. However, in 1998, Steel Works stripped down, disassembled and refurbished the machine.

In count one of Ducey's complaint, he claims Cauffiel negligently designed the machine by configuring the recoiler so that when the machine was in operation an operator checking for burs would be subject to having his gloves grabbed, pulling him up into the recoiler at the pinch point.

He also claims Cauffiel negligently designed the machine by failing to provide a safety switch which would immediately shut down the machine upon an operator being caught within it and failing to design the machine with guards that would prevent an operator's gloved hand from being caught on burs and drawn into the recoiler pinch point.

Count two of Ducey's complaint claims co-defendants TCE Staffing, LFI Staffing and LFI Temps prepared him for his employment at Steel Works but failed to properly instruct him and others working with the recoiler not to place their hands on any moving parts or on the steel as it moved along to be split and recoiled.

He also claims defendants negligently failed and carelessly instructed him that it was appropriate to manually check for burs and defects on steel cuts made by the big splitter prior to its being split and recoiled and failed to properly train him on the appropriate method of checking for burs and other defects.

The third count of Ducey's complaint alleges negligence against Steel Works.

Ducey claims his employer failed to provide guards over the recoiler when it elected to refurbish the machine in 1998 and failed to correct the design and manufacturing defects in the recoiler when it elected to refurbish the machine.

The fourth and final count of Ducey's complaint is against the owner's of Steel Works, Ted Cooper and Gregory Dell.

Ducey claims at the time of his injury he was a 22-year-old with no prior experience in the operations of steel plants or steel cutting and processing plants.

"Prior to the time of the accident, it was reasonably foreseeable that if the employees were not properly trained and the heavy machinery used to process and cut steel were not properly maintained with adequate guards and safety devices, the employees would be working in an unsafe environment and could suffer serious and fatal injuries," the complaint states.

He claims the owners had a duty of care in imposing a business and budgetary strategy not to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others but breached that duty by imposing a budget that minimized operating costs including costs for proper training and costs for placing guards and safety devices to prevent injuries.

Ducey also claims the owners acquiesced in and ratified the dangerous practice of running steel through the big slitter and recoiler at a speed that did not allow for visual inspection, but required the employees to stick their hands on the steel as it was rapidly moving along the big slitter.

He claims the owners imposed that strategy for minimized expenditures for employee training and increased speed of processing steel was done in order to maximize profits.

According to Ducey, he sustained injuries of a severe and permanent nature including amputation of his left hand, fingers and thumb and injuries to his back which caused and will continue to cause great pain, disability, medical expenses and lost wages.

Represented by Bernard Ysursa of Belleville, Ducey is seeking damages in excess of $200,000, plus costs of the suit.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Daniel Stack.

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