In the summer of 1999 Julius Doctor was working at a textile plant in North Charleston. His job involved feeding multiple lines of thread through a “warper” machine so that the thread could be made into canvas. The thread ran through several spools that operated at a high rate of speed with several “pinch points” (potentially dangerous areas of machinery which can cause bodily) between the rollers.

The warper machine had originally been located in Charlotte but was moved to Charleston following a corporate buyout. In Charlotte the warper machine had been equipped with a safety bar that prevented people’s arms from being pulled into the machine. Unfortunately the safety bar was removed prior to the machine’s arrived in Charleston.

On July 15, 1999, Mr. Doctor was working with the warper machine when his arm was suddenly pulled into the machine because the safety bar was not installed to protect him. Several workers rushed to his aid but it took them several minutes to remove Mr. Doctor’s arm from the machine.

Mr. Doctor suffered severe crushing injuries in the accident and had to undergo several surgeries to try and repair the damage. He received outstanding medical care from Dr. John McFadden, a Charleston surgeon, who saved the arm from what seemed to be certain amputation.

Mr. Doctor knew he needed legal help. “I really prayed about what I should do. I came out of church one day and saw the Joye Law Firm’s sign – it just seemed like God was directing me there,” said Mr. Doctor.

Joye Law Firm attorney Ken Harrell represented Mr. Doctor in his workers’ compensation claim, eventually resolving the claim for the maximum amount recoverable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. He then asked Joye Law Firm attorney Angus Lawton to investigate a possible third party case against either the manufacturer of the machine or the companies that had moved the warper to Charleston.

“This case shows the benefit of having a full-service law firm represent you if you have a serious injury. The reason we recruited Angus to the Joye Law Firm was his reputation for tenacity in investigating cases like this,” said Mr. Harrell. “The workers’ compensation system is a good safety net for injured workers but you often can recover a second recovery for the client if you can show that someone other than the employer negligently caused the accident.”

During his investigation, Mr. Lawton discovered that there had been several complaints against the moving company. He also found that the safety bar for the machine had been misplaced during the move. Accordingly, he filed suit against the company that moved the equipment and the company that supervised the move.

During the course of discovery, Mr. Lawton learned that several other machines had experienced problems after the move, and that several other safety bars had been misplaced. This information coupled with the fact that there had been several complaints against the moving company led to a favorable settlement of the third party case.

According to Mr. Lawton, the case shows “how important it is for workers to make sure that they have all possible safety devices when they are using equipment. This accident could have been prevented if the moving companies had not misplaced the safety bar or if Mr. Doctor’s employer had given him a replacement safety device. I’m just glad that we were able to help Mr. Doctor and his family.”

For his part, Mr. Doctor is appreciative of the firm’s hard work on his behalf. “From the first day I walked in there, I felt like I was in the right place,” he said. “Mr. Harrell and Mr. Lawton showed me they really cared about me, and I won’t forget that.”

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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