Robot kills factory worker lawsuit

April 20, 2017

Wanda Holbrook, a Grand Rapids resident and 12-year veteran of an automotive factory, died when a robot’s arm malfunctioned and pressed her head into a fixture on July 7, 2015. The Ventra Ionia Plant used robots to weld plates onto truck bumpers, and one robotic arm swung into the 57-year-old woman’s area, resulting in the fatal accident.

Her husband, Bill, filed a wrongful death lawsuit with the U.S. District Court on March 7, 2017. His suit claims negligence from the following companies:

  • Ohio-based Lincoln Electric Co
  • Flex-N-Gate, a Delaware corporation with offices in Warren
  • Prodomax Automation, a Canadian company
  • FANUC America Corp., which has offices in Rochester Hills
  • Nachi Robotic Systems.

He desires to hold them responsible and accountable for the tragedy in order to prevent a future accident.

The lawsuit states that ” the robot was in the wrong area—section 140 instead of 130—and mistakenly tried to load a hitch assembly onto a fixture that already had one. Protective systems to prevent this glitch failed to engage, resulting in Holbrook’s death.

Holbrook’s attorney Matthew Wikander is investigating the accident, but Ventra Viona has denied him inspection of Holbrook’s work space, though they aren’t being sued. A workers’ compensation claim is in dispute as well, leaving the Holbrook family without compensation benefits. These facts have led Wikander to suspect that there is more to the story, and that other players might be involved.

According to Holbrook’s husband and his attorney, Holbrook could have taken other jobs but remained loyal to the plant. She was an experienced and competent professional, so it stands to reason that her death probably did not result from her own actions.

Wikander’s goal is not only to find resolution to prevent future accidents but also to compensate the Holbrook’s survivors. The family has suffered a great loss as Holbrook was a wife, mother and grandmother taken too soon. Wikander does not want another family to endure such tragedy.

After a wrongful death, the family might be entitled to legal compensation via a lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim. John Rosenbaum is an Orange County Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation attorney that is ready to serve in your time of need.

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