Injured man sues companies

JOHNSTOWN – A Gloversville man who was badly injured when his hand became trapped in a leather press two years ago is suing five companies that did business with his employer, saying they are responsible for his “catastrophic” injury.

The lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in Johnstown on Dec. 31 on behalf of William Deming, who worked for Pearl Leather Finishers on Industrial Parkway.

The lawsuit names James F. Senzio, who owns Fulton County Electrical in Johnstown, and Stephen A. Manoogian, who owns Pioneer Tanning in Johnstown, as well as three larger companies: Boyle Machine & Supply Co. of Peabody, Mass., Rockford Systems of Rockford, Ill., and the Eaton Corp. of Cleveland, Ohio.

Pearl Leather is not a defendant.

The lawsuit says the defendants “manufactured, designed, maintained, updated and serviced” the guarding system on an embossing press, which Deming was using Oct. 28, 2010, when his right hand became trapped. Deming was using the equipment correctly and could not have discovered it was unsafe, the suit says.

The lawsuit does not specify Deming’s injury, other than to say he suffered “catastrophic injury and damage to his right hand and arm.”

Documents obtained from the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration on Thursday stated a Pearl Leather employee had five fingers amputated after reaching beneath “deficient” guarding on the same machine that day.

Deming’s attorney, Latham-based Peter Moschetti, did not return a phone message or email. The lawsuit says Deming lives in Gloversville. He could not be reached for comment.

Senzio and Manoogian also did not return phone messages left at their offices last week. A phone message for Pearl Leather President Joseph Ruggiero also was not returned.

OSHA officials said they visited Pearl Leather after the accident and found 20 violations, resulting in a proposed $105,300 in fines in April 2011. Four of the fines were because of concerns on or near the press responsible for the amputation, according to the OSHA documents.

Pearl Leather eventually negotiated the fines down to $60,000 after pledging to take corrective action, said Ted Fitzgerald, regional director for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Pearl Leather is paying $7,500 seasonally and will make its last installment before July 1, according to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor signed by Ruggiero on Sept. 9, 2011.

The fines included $6,300 for deficient machine guards, $6,300 for deficient point-of-operation guards, $6,300 for unguarded flywheel and drive pulleys near the press and $3,150 for not having an identifiable electrical disconnect for the press, according to the documents.

The company also was fined $900 for understating the amputation injury, reporting it in an OSHA log as a “right hand injury,” the documents said.

Three days after the accident, Moschetti secured an order from County Court Judge Richard C. Giardino, requiring the press to be preserved in its current condition and allow for its inspection, according to County Court documents. The press ultimately was removed from service, Ruggiero said in the agreement.

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