A man who was operating a rock crusher when a co- worker became fatally entangled in the machine in 2013 testified Monday that he was happy to leave the company months later so he could escape the memories.
“Honestly, I couldn’t get off the property fast enough,” Anthony Garfield said of his departure from the R.J. Noble Co. “I was disturbed by what happened that day.”
Garfield’s testified before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing the negligence and products liability claims brought on behalf of the late Rolando Anaya‘s three children against North Dakota-based General Equipment & Supplies Inc., which sold the machine to Anaya’s employer, R.J. Noble Co., which operates a plant in an unincorporated area near Corona where rocks are crushed to make asphalt. Anaya’s two sons are currently 17 and 11 years old; and his daughter is 14. The suit was filed in September 2015 by Eliza Perez, who was Anaya’s domestic partner.
The Anaheim man was killed on Oct. 7, 2013, when he became entangled in the conveyer belt of the device while cleaning debris and loose rock, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Donald Liddy.
In his testimony, Garfield said that his seat in the machine’s control room atop a trailer gave him access to the machine’s emergency-stop button. He said he could not see Anaya working on the device, but knew something was amiss when the conveyer belt suddenly stopped.
Garfield said he started looking for the reasons the belt stopped and shouted out to Anaya that he should take his lunch break. He said he eventually went to the other side of the apparatus and saw enmeshed in the device the top of Anaya’s head, the upper part of his hands and his sneakers.
Garfield said that after the accident, he operated different machines at the company for a brief period before he departed.
In other testimony, civil engineer Peter Petrovski said the machine that killed Anaya was unsafe.
“Never in my entire career have I seen such a dangerous machine,” Petrovski said, noting that a cover that should have been over the area in which Anaya became entangled was missing. The mere vibrations of the machine when operating could have knocked it off, Petrovski said.
Petrovski said the manufacturer also should have put the warning about the dangers of the machine on the device itself and not on the cover that fell off.
“It’s dumb,” he said, adding that had a shut-off button or cord been placed in the area where Anaya became entwined, he could have turned the system off and saved his life.
Two other witnesses testified that Anaya was a God-fearing man who loved his children and set a good example for them. Maria Garcia held up a copy of Anaya’s bible, saying it contained notes he left before he died, while 29- year-old Miguel Rodriguez Jr. credited Anaya with helping him steer a straight path in his life.
Before leaving the courtroom, Rodriguez told jurors, “I hope you guys make the right choice.”
After Rodriguez left, Judge Michelle Williams Court told jurors the comment was improper and that they should disregard it.
Defense attorney John Kaniewski told jurors during his opening statement that Anaya actually was absent for much of his children’s lives. He renewed his request to the court that he be allowed to introduce evidence that Anaya had “multiple felony convictions” between 2007-13 and that he once belonged to an Anaheim gang. The judge said Kaniewski had not provided a sufficient basis for allowing the jury to hear about Anaya’s brushes with the law.
–City News Service
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