Macy’s Liable for Death of Employee

Company Pays $950,000 Fine after Employee Decapitation

The retail giant Macy’s has agreed to pay a fine of $950,000 after an employee in the company’s Los Angeles distribution center was decapitated in a cardboard baler/compactor. The company also pleaded no contest to a criminal misdemeanor charge, according to the Los Angeles County DA’s office.

According to witnesses, 65-year-old Roy Polanco was operating the baling and compacting machine when he fell into the compactor, which had been modified to run without interruption. The machine had sensors designed to shut off the machine in such a circumstance, but the sensors were not working. According to prosecutors, the company removed a metal shield from the compactor, intentionally blocked the sensors, and erected a ladder so that workers could get into the machine. The company was charged with two felony counts of willfully violating safety standards. The district attorney sought a $1.5 million fine, but Macy’s negotiated a settlement.

As a part of the settlement, Macy’s has agreed to inspect all similar machines in its California stores and distribution centers. It must then obtain approval of all balers/compactors from the district attorney’s office.

The plea agreement, however, allows Macy’s to pay the fine and then come to court and have the conviction expunged. Furthermore, the district attorney’s office agrees not to “oppose the termination of probation or the expungement.” When asked why he agreed to such a deal, even though he originally brought felony charges against Macy’s (and a judge ruled that there was enough evidence to take the case to trial), prosecutor Daniel Wright said that the decision was not his, but was made by his supervisors in the LA County District Attorney’s Office. He declined any further comment.

An investigation, though, disclosed that Macy’s was represented in the case by Bill Seki, co-director of the Southwestern Law School’s Trial Advocacy Honors Program. The other co-director, Joseph Esposito, is currently an Assistant District Attorney, the number three prosecutor in Los Angeles County.

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