Court Backs Worker In ‘Dangerous Instrumentality’ Case

Oct 1, 2018

In a case stemming from a worker’s finger being severed on a job site, a divided Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday against Caterpillar Financial Services Corp. in a dispute about whether a piece of equipment should be considered a “dangerous instrumentality.”

The majority opinion, written by Justice Peggy Quince and joined by justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Jorge Labarga, overturned a ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal that said a multi-terrain loader was not a dangerous instrumentality.

Anthony Newton was injured after he was hired by C&J Bobcat and Hauling LLC to help clear a lot. Newton and another man used a loader that had been leased from Caterpillar and was used to dump debris into a trailer for disposal, Thursday’s Supreme Court decision said.

Newton was inside the trailer when the other man released a stump from the bucket’s loader, with the stump rolling onto Newton’s hand and severing a finger, the Supreme Court decision said. Newton filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County alleging that Caterpillar was liable because the loader was a dangerous instrumentality.

A circuit judge and the 2nd District Court of Appeal turned down the argument, but the Supreme Court majority ruled in favor of Newton. A dissent written by Justice Alan Lawson and joined by Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston argued the Supreme Court did not have a basis to take up the case because there were not conflicting rulings about the issue in lower courts.