Carolina Orejel De Rodriguez, et al. v. Osterkamp Farms dba Osterkamp Ranches
Imperial County Superior Court - El Centro
Fatal Industrial Accident Involving Sugar Beet Harvesting Machine

This office represented the surviving spouse and six adult children of Jose Rodriguez, a 60 year old truck owner and operator and family patriarch who was prematurely taken from his family as a result of an industrial accident.  Mr. Rodriguez was engaged as an independent truck owner-operator to haul loads of sugar beets from the fields owned and farmed by the defendants.                                             

At approximately 3:30 in the morning, on May 19, 2015, Mr. Rodriguez and one of the defendant’s beet harvester machine operators were outside their respective vehicles, either standing at the rear of the beet harvester while talking or attempting to remove mud that had built up due moisture in the field. The machine operator left the rear of the beet harvester, entered the cab of his tractor, and engaged the PTO without being able to see the decedent, and without making a reasonable effort to determine and confirm that the only other human in the vicinity was “clear of machinery”.  After the harvester was in operation for 30-60 seconds, the operator returned to the rear of the harvester where he discovered the decedent’s lifeless body inside.

The defendants claimed through their pleadings that the decedent was comparatively at fault for this fatal industrial accident.  Defendants suggested that Mr. Rodriguez should have realized that the power to the harvester was about to be engaged and should not have placed himself in a position of danger.  Defendants argued that Mr. Rodriguez was a mere bystander in the minutes prior to his death, and had no reason to be near, or on, or “in”, the harvester.