Summary Judgment in Wrongful Death at Paper Mill

Attorney David Hassett successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of a defendant cardboard packaging company in a wrongful death action brought in Worcester Superior Court.

The 24-year-old decedent was working at a paper mill in Worcester when he was pulled into an unguarded paper rewinding machine and suffered fatal crush injuries.  The plaintiff’s estate alleged that the defendant packaging company was the owner and/or in control of the premises and was negligent in “failing to provide a safe workplace, failing to enforce workplace safety and failing to provide adequate training to all workers at the paper mill premises and workplace safety and otherwise failing to take reasonable precautions for the safety of the plaintiff’s decedent.”

At the time of the fatal accident, the decedent was employed by a paper mill with a very similar name to the defendant packaging company.  The defense argued that despite the companies’ similar names, business, and ownership, and the fact that they shared the same building in Worcester, the two companies were separate entities.  Defense counsel further argued that the defendant packaging company and paper mill had separate entrances to the building, separate managers, separate loading docks and were physically separated by a concrete wall.  Moreover, defense counsel argued that the defendant packaging company never employed, trained, or supervised any of the paper mill’s employees, including the decedent.   In the alternative, defense counsel argued that if the two companies were as closely related as the plaintiff claimed, the action against the defendant cardboard packing company would be precluded under workers’ compensation law.

Attorney Hassett filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which was initially denied on the grounds that material questions of fact remained.  The parties conducted additional depositions of several witnesses.  Deposition testimony proved to bolster defense counsel’s arguments that the two companies were entirely independent and further that no agency or similar relationship existed between them.   Defense counsel renewed their Motion for Summary Judgment.  Superior Court Justice John McCann found that defendant packaging company owed no duty of care to the plaintiff’s decedent and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant packaging company.

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