Malfunctioning Robot Killed Woman at Work: Lawsuit

Wrongful death suit filed over accident that killed Wanda Holbrook
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2017 1:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – A malfunctioning robot fatally crushed a woman's head as she adjusted machinery at her job, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court by her husband. Wanda Holbrook, a maintenance technician for Michigan's Ventra Ionia, which does work related to trailer hitches, was inspecting machinery on July 7, 2015, when a robot from another section "took Wanda by surprise," per William Holbrook's suit. It entered Wanda's section, where hitch components were assembled, then "hit and crushed Wanda’s head between a hitch assembly it was attempting to place in the fixture of section 140, and a hitch assembly that was already in the fixture." Holbrook's co-workers found her, and she died of severe head trauma at the scene, Courthouse News reports.

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The robot shouldn't have gone into that section in the first place, and, furthermore, shouldn't have tried to place a hitch assembly in a fixture that already had one loaded, per the lawsuit, which was filed against various companies involved in the production, installation, and servicing of the robot. "A failure of one or more of defendants’ safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda’s death," the lawsuit states. It also says the automated safety system did not work as it should have; safety doors meant to stop robot movement, for example, failed, the lawsuit claims. Prior to dying, Wanda Holbrook "suffered tremendous fright, shock, and conscious pain and suffering," the lawsuits says, per Quartz. According to Holbrook's 2015 obituary, the 57-year-old left behind three children and two grandchildren. (A Bumble Bee Foods worker died a gruesome death.)

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