Publix worker who lost hand at warehouse files suit

Published On: Jul 22 2013 04:01:20 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 22 2013 04:18:25 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A Publix employee who lost her hand nearly three years ago while working with a cleaning crew at the grocery store chain's warehouse on the Westside announced a lawsuit Monday against the company.

Appiffane West says she was cleaning a running conveyer belt when her hand got caught and was cut off. The lawsuit claims the Publix supervisor was reckless regarding employee safety.

West, who worked at the warehouse for three years, now wears a prosthetic hand. She spoke briefly Monday, her attorney by her side, about how hard it is now to get by.

"It's a factor in everyday life and it's exhausting because I have to think more," she said.

Wests's attorney, Steve Pajcic, says Publix is totally to blame. He says the warehouse had numerous problems in the past and claims the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and others had been warned of the dangers before.

"We think in this case that the Publix practices were so egregious and dangerous that Ms. West can bring a civil suit for gross negligence and for the accident being almost a virtual certainty to happen," Pajcic said.

He said Publix violated two critical guidelines. He said for one, there was no device protecting employees. And Pajcic said the second error is even more critical.

"Publix told the employees to clean these conveyer systems when they were running," he said.

He said that's when West's glove got caught as she was removing a corn husk from the belt.

Pajcic said there have been other accidents at the plant in the past, including someone who had four fingers amputated.

No one at the warehouse would comment, except through email. But there was no response Monday.

OSHA investigated the accident and last year leveled a $182,000 fine that has been settled, but details are not available.

West is getting workers' compensation and $100,000 for her amputated hand, but Pajcic says this goes much further and West says she has lost so much more.

"It's on my mind constantly from when I wake up in the morning until I go to sleep at night," West said. "Sometimes I even have dreams about it."