Lawyer for Suing Georgia Pacific Paper Mill

Paper mills can be dangerous places to work, full of heat sources, pressure vessels, heavy machinery, and hazardous chemicals.

Georgia Pacific’s paper mills are sadly no exception. Workers have died and suffered horrific injuries while working for Georgia Pacific, both here in Georgia and at the company’s other locations around the country.

If you think you may need to sue Georgia Pacific, the Stoddard Firm has paper mill accident lawyers conveniently located in Atlanta, who can help you build the strongest possible case.

Without Adequate Lockout Procedures, Workers Can Get Caught in Mill Machinery

In March of this year, a Georgia Pacific employee was killed while working at the paper mill in Camas, Washington.

According to his coworkers, the 32-year-old man was working alone with a machine that had been functioning unpredictably all day. The machine was supposed to organize boxes onto pallets. After the coworkers noticed a backup of boxes on the conveyer belt, stretching all the way into the adjacent building where they were working, they went to check on the man and found him entangled in the machine.

When emergency crews arrived, the man was already dead as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and torso.

Employees noted that the deceased had apparently entered a caged-off area to service the machine, without first performing the required lockout procedure to shut down the power.

Lockout policies are essential for preventing exactly these kinds of industrial accidents. However, in order to be as effective as possible, these policies need the support of engineering safeguards.

In a workplace that’s both well-run and well-designed, the correct thing to do, the safe thing to do, and the most convenient thing to do are all one and the same. Servicing a machine without disconnecting the power is not only forbidden but extremely difficult, ideally impossible.

Georgia Pacific Paper Mills Have Had Three Fires in the Past Two Years

Fire prevention and preparation is a crucial safety concern for virtually every kind of property. Paper mills, however, handle large quantities of flammable materials on a daily basis. Machines involved in the paper making process use heat, pressure, low humidity, and combustible chemicals to get the desired results. All of this adds up to an especially high fire risk that paper mills must take all necessary steps to manage.

In September of 2023, a fire started inside a wood chip dryer at the Georgia Pacific mill in Toledo, Oregon, sending flames up through the building’s roof vent.

Only a month later, another fire broke out at the company’s mill in Palatka, Florida, this time starting from inside a digester — the machine used to break wood chips down into pulp.

Five months after that, an explosion started yet another fire at the plant in Emporia, Virginia.

Thankfully, all three of these fires prompted successful evacuations, and no one was hurt. Having a plan in place to get people out safely after a fire starts is a huge part of fire safety, and Georgia Pacific lived up to that responsibility three times out of three these past couple years.

Even so, ideal fire safety precautions should also stop most fires from starting in the first place. There’s an element of luck in every fire evacuation, especially when the fire starts with an explosion. Georgia Pacific could not have guaranteed that all of its employees would escape from these incidents unscathed.

Preventing 100% of fires may not be realistic, but failing at prevention three times in less than two years isn’t a great record for any company.

Safety Violations at the Local Cedar Springs Mill Have Proven Deadly in the Past

Not all Georgia Pacific paper mill explosions have been injury-free. At the Cedar Springs mill, right here in Georgia, employees were caught in two serious back-to-back explosions back in 2006.

The first was in April. One employee was welding pinholes on the outside of a pressurized tank full of water and paper stock, while two others watched for signs of fire from catwalks above — a common safety precaution during tasks that generate sparks.

At some point during the operation, a pressure relief valve opened in the tank, which caused one of the watchers to suffer a fatal 30-foot fall from the catwalk.

While investigating that worker’s death, OSHA identified a string of safety violations, including rusted and improperly anchored guardrails on the catwalk, failure to aim pressure-relief valves away from workers, and failure to shut down the machinery before beginning welding work. The lack of adequate shutdown/lockout procedures was a repeat offense for the Cedar Springs mill.

OSHA ultimately proposed a set of fines totaling $63,000.

Unfortunately, by the time OSHA presented these recommendations, a second employee had already been involved in a second boiler explosion in the same mill. According to his family, he suffered burn injuries to 68% of his body and required 80 separate surgeries.

Worker’s Comp Law Protects Georgia Pacific from Most Workplace Accident Lawsuits

Collecting full compensation after a paper mill accident in the U.S can be challenging, because worker’s comp law doesn’t allow employees to sue their employers over workplace injuries. In the case of fatal accidents, the employee’s next of kin are also barred from suing the employer for wrongful death.

Instead of a lawsuit, workplace accident survivors are entitled to a quick payout through the worker’s comp system itself. The problem is that this payout never covers the full value of the damages.

After a minor accident, when an injured worker just needs a checkup, some painkillers, and a chance to heal, the difference between a worker’s comp payout and a full settlement from a civil lawsuit might not be all that important.

After a major accident, however, when a life has been lost or altered forever, the difference could be a matter of hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions.

Thankfully, there are a few workarounds that make it possible for many paper mill accident victims and their families to sue for full compensation.

It’s Still Possible to Sue After a Georgia Pacific Accident

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to an accident at a Georgia Pacific paper mill, you can file a lawsuit if any of the following are true:

Georgia Pacific rejected your worker’s comp claim.

The point of the worker’s comp system is to make it easy for injured workers and their families to get coverage for basic, immediate expenses, without having to wait through an investigation or trial. When employers get in the way of this service, they waive the protection the worker’s comp system offers them.

Georgia Pacific does not directly employ you or your loved one.

Employer immunity to workplace lawsuits only applies within a formal employer/employee relationship. It does not apply to relationships between companies and their independent contractors.

Georgia Pacific is not the only company that contributed to the accident.

Big companies like Georgia Pacific don’t operate in a vacuum. The factory floor of a paper mill may belong to Georgia Pacific, but in all likelihood, the machines that make that floor so dangerous were designed and manufactured by third-party suppliers. After manufacture, those machines may have been serviced or retooled by other third-party companies. Even the mill’s own safety policies may have been devised or influenced by consultants from a third-party risk assessment service. None of these outside companies are immune to lawsuits from Georgia Pacific’s employees.

A paper mill accident lawyer can help you examine your employment relationship with Georgia Pacific, and identify any other companies that may be liable for the harm you’ve suffered.

The experts at the Stoddard Firm are passionate about making sure families affected by industrial accidents get the full compensation they need, no matter where we have to turn to claim it. To get started with a free consultation on your case, reach out any time by phone or chat.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury LawyerMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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