O’Neil Watrous suffered serious injuries while operating a Fenn 5F swaging machine in the course and scope of his employment with LeFiell Manufacturing Company. Watrous filed a civil complaint against his employer alleging a violation of Labor Code section 4558, the power press exception to the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation.
A Fenn 5F swaging machine is used to reduce a larger diameter tube to a smaller diameter. The swaging operation uses a process whereby hammers are actuated within the machine and used against dies that change the shape at the end of the tube. The swaging process compresses the metal so that the end of the tube is smaller in diameter, thicker, and stronger than the rest of the tube. The door had been removed from the Fenn 5F swaging machine that Watrous was operating at the time of the accident. The purpose of the door is for access, and when necessary, to change the dies. The door also functions to hold the dies in place while the power press is in operation. There is an opening in the center of the door to feed the material to be swaged into the bed of the Fenn 5F swaging machine. Instead of the door, a metal pressure plate was held in place by clamps.
Watrous was standing approximately six feet from the Fenn 5F swaging machine at the time of the accident and was removing a tube from the machine following the swaging process. He was injured when a piece of metal hit him in the eye. His 4558 theory was that the tube he was removing from the swaging machine struck the pressure plate assembly, causing the part to be “violently dislodged and launched into [his] eye and occipital lobe.” LeFiell brought its summary judgment motion asserting that the door was not a point of operation guard as a matter of law. Thus, his injury did not fall within the section 4558 exception. The trial court denied the motion and concluded there was a triable issue of fact as to whether a door that was removed from the Fenn 5F swaging machine operated by plaintiff O’Neil Watrous was a point of operation guard. LeFiell filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging an order denying its summary judgment motion. The Court of Appeal reversed in the published opinion of LeFiell v Superior Court.
Section 4558’s exemption from workers’ compensation exclusivity applies, by the statute’s own plain and express terms, only to material-forming machines utilizing a die. Machines using other types of tools to cut material are not within the statute’s application, even if they would meet a regulatory agency’s definition of power press. The Supreme Court in the Rosales decision (22 Cal.4th at p. 286) rejected importing the definition of “power press” promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 4188, subd. (b)) into section 4558. Section 4558 provides its own definition of ‘power press – a definition that limits the category to machines using dies. Thus the Court of Appeal rejected Watrous’s attempt to import general industry safety regulations into section 4558.
A peremptory writ of mandate issue directing the trial court to vacate its order denying LeFiell’s motion for summary judgment and enter a new and different order granting the summary judgment motion.