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Serious Personal Injury Lawsuit at Community College

Reasonable care and precaution surrounding safety is at the heart of this serious personal injury case.

LCCC Student Sues College for Welding Class Injury

July 22, 2014. By Aerin Curtis, Wyoming Tribune Eagle A former Laramie County Community College student is suing the college for damages related to an injury he suffered on equipment in a welding class in 2011.In the recently filed lawsuit in Laramie County District Court, Michael Plemens said the college was negligent in its care of machinery and had removed a safety device, which led to his injury. A visit by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services to the shop classrooms after the accident found eight serious and eight non-serious OSHA violations in the classrooms, including that the machine's safety device was improperly installed. "The nature of OSHA's safety hazard findings demonstrate defendants' and each of their disregard for the safety of its/their students and their ignorance and/or apathy regarding normal and routine safety procedures necessary to protect students from serious injury while in the shop classroom," according to court documents. LCCC lawyer Tara Nethercott said the college does not comment on pending litigation. He is suing the school for not maintaining safe machinery and equipment operated in classes in September of 2011. "Defendants, including, but not limited to, defendant (instructor Rob) Benning, knew of the risk and danger that such mechanical power press presented to its students as a result of such safety device being removed, but nevertheless knowingly operated and allowed such mechanical power press to be operated in a manner that placed (Plemens) and others in harm's way and at serious risk of injury," according to court documents. The suit is against members of the LCCC Board of Trustees, college President Joe Schaffer, vice president of administration and finance Carol Hoglund, instructors or employees Rob Benning, Robert LaFaso, Larry Van Why and Jared Cooper, as well as several unknown college employees. Plemens, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, had started the auto body course as a therapeutic program. Because he "enjoyed working with his hands, he and his (Veterans Affairs) counselor agreed that the auto body program offered by (LCCC) might help (Plemens) find a way to get out and participate once again in normal life activities," according to court documents. He was taking part in a welding class when the injury occurred. A machine used in the class amputated the tips of two fingers on his left hand and caused permanent injury to the hand, according to court documents. Plemens "continues to experience numbness, pain and discomfort in his injured extremities and has difficulty grasping small or fine objects with his injured hand," according to court documents. In the lawsuit, Plemens says a mechanical power press used in the class was missing the safety feature that would have protected his hand. And the college should be responsible for damages caused by the metal cutting machine, the lawsuit says. The instructors should have acted with "reasonable care" to not place students in a "dangerous and compromised situation," according to court documents. Additionally, the lawsuit says the college failed to properly train employees regarding safety procure on the machine, according to court documents. A previous claim was filed with the college in August of 2013. But the claim was denied in December, according to court documents. That claim asked for $1.75 million, along with legal costs and damages. The lawsuit is asking for coverage of several items, include medical expenses; loss of earning capacity; permanent physical impairment; emotional distress; shock, fright and worry; discrimination and attorney fees. After the incident, Plemens contacted the school's insurance administrator and was told that the school does not cover student injuries.

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