44 year old aircraft groomer was struck and run over by the wheels of a passenger loading bridge

A 44 year old aircraft groomer, was struck and run over by the wheels of a passenger loading bridge (PLB) operated by a co-employee at the San Francisco Airport International Terminal. She sustained severe injuries to both legs, resulting in above knee amputation of her left leg and an extensive crushing and degloving injury of her right leg. She is disabled from her injuries.

It was determined through extensive pre trial discovery that the Airport had contracted with ThyssenKruppp for the purchase of several PLBs with mandatory safety and performance specifications, including equipment addressing operator visibility of the wheels. The PLBs were delivered, accepted and put into use despite not meeting the minimum safety standards in the contract. The Airport contended that it had a longstanding procedure for PLB movement which required an on-ground spotter because of the blind spot that prevented the operator from seeing the wheels. It was learned that the procedure was routinely ignored by PLB operators, that the Airport despite knowledge of the routine violations rarely, if ever, warned operators of the violation of the safety rules, and that the Airfield Safety Officer responsible for enforcement of the safety rules and Federal Air Regulations (FAR) was unaware of the spotter requirement.

ThyssenKrupp began manufacturing PLBs for the U.S. market in the 1990s. Thyssen had manufactured PLBs for use in Europe and the rest of the world for decades. Initially, early manufacture in the U.S. was based on the designs developed for the international market, which included significant safety devices that addressed the operator “blind spot”. At an unspecified time, (Thyssen had destroyed all documents related to the decision process) the U.S. branch of Thyssen decided to “AMERICANIZE” the PLB which resulted in stripping of the safety equipment that had been, and continues to be, standard equipment on all PLBs manufactured internationally by Thyssen. Thyssen claimed it continued to offer the safety equipment as an option on its American PLBs, but admitted that unless a customer initiated a demand for specific safety devices none were offered. Discovery uncovered other similar accidents in which ground workers were struck by the wheels of a moving Thyssen PLB.

After 3 ½ days of mediation the case settled for a CONFIDENTIAL amount. In addition to the settlement of the civil action, the Worker’s Compensation carrier waived its lien, and the plaintiff retained her right to future worker’s compensation benefits.