A Texas appellate court upheld a $1,016,809 judgment in favor of a Kroger employee who lost three fingers in an accident; Kroger is a Texas “non-subscriber” to the workers’ compensation system. The injured employee, Christopher Milanes, was hired and trained by Kroger in 2007 as a “meat cutter” and was trained by senior employees as to the use of a saw to cut meat. Milanes claims that he was never trained to use the hand guard on the saw and also testified that he was never given Kroger’s Meat and Seafood Department Safety Manual or the saw’s operator’s manual. Milanes further testified that the bone-in saw manufacturer’s warning labels were not on the saw during the time he worked at the Kroger store in question. Meat cutters had also repeatedly reported to Kroger management that the saw was in disrepair and unsafe to use.
Milanes lost parts of three fingers on his dominant hand after the saw’s dull blade caused the meat to “jump,” pulling his fingers into it. Surgery to reattach the severed fingers was unsuccessful and he required additional surgeries to cover exposed bone, plus physical therapy. Milanes also revealed a continuing struggle with severe pain and anxiety attacks. After attempting two additional jobs at Kroger, the store fired him for refusing to change out a hose used to clean an industrial cooler while on light duty. The judge overruled Kroger in its attempt to submit the case under the premises liability theory as opposed to ordinary negligence, resulting in the million-plus judgment, with interest.