The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a negligence lawsuit filed by the estate of a worker who was fatally crushed in April 2019 at a tire mold factory can proceed.
The appeals court, affirming a trial court’s decision, determined that the estate of Desmond Japrael Stephens successfully argued that its civil suit against Charlotte-based King Machine of North Carolina would not be barred by exclusive remedy provisions of the state’s workers’ compensation statute.
Mr. Stephens was crushed to death by a 2,000-pound metal tire form lifted by a forklift that had been modified without the approval of its manufacturer. Workplace safety regulators concluded that King Machine violated state safety and health laws and that it committed a willful and serious violation when it modified the forklift.
In upholding the lower court̵7;s decision to deny King Machine’s motion to dismiss, the appeals court determined that the plaintiff successfully proved an exclusive remedy exception by establishing that the company willfully engaged in malpractice by modifying the forklift.