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In Saarinen v. Hall, 26 ALW 36-8 (1160066), 9/1/2017,
the Supreme Court held that the failure of the employee’s supervisors to
install a safer saw that was on the employer’s premises was not the equivalent
of removing a safety guard from an existing saw so as to subject the
supervisors to liability under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.
2014, Louis Hall (“Hall”) was injured while operating a power saw at work. He sued Williams Manufacturing, Inc., who
owned the plant where Hall worked, and co-employees Bobby Saarinen and Chris
Williams (Co-Employees). The
Co-Employees were supervisory employees.
Co-Employees filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that on the subject
accident date, Hall was operating a saw manufactured by Kalamazoo Industries,
Inc. and that the saw had been manufactured with a guard covering a portion of
the blade. Hall did not believe the
guard was adequate however, and prior to his injury, at Hall’s request,
Williams Manufacturing installed an additional guard onto the saw. After Hall’s injury, Williams Manufacturing
replaced the saw with one manufactured by a different company which had been
delivered at least one (1) month prior to Hall’s accident. Hall testified that it had not been installed
because Williams Manufacturing was too busy to install it at the time.
trial court denied the Co-Employees’ Motion for Summary Judgment and then
certified the controlling question of law pursuant to Rule 5(a), Ala. R. App.
P., of whether not installing a “safer” saw was the equivalent of removing a
safety guard under Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-11(c)(2).
Court reversed the trial court’s Order denying the Co-Employees’ Motion, noting
that in the present case, there was no evidence that the Co-Employees failed to
install a guard provided by the manufacturer of the saw that Hall had been
using, or that they failed to maintain or repair the guard that was
provided. Further, the Court noted that
the additional guard installed on the saw Hall was using did not bypass the
original guard. Accordingly, the Court
held that the failure to install another “safer” saw present on the premises,
was not the same as removing a safety guard so as to constitute “willful conduct”
under Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-11(c)(2).