Adjuster X

A Fast Food Nightmare

By: | October 15, 2015

This column is based on the experiences of a group of long-time claims adjusters. The situations they describe are real, but the names and key details are kept confidential. Michelle Kerr is the editor of this column and can be reached at [email protected]

Millie Ramos was using twin deep-fryer baskets at Express Burgers & More when she sustained severe burns to her eye and both hands. The locks wouldn’t release when she attempted to remove the flyer baskets.

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When they remained stationery, the force caused her hands to go into the hot oil. Her screams brought the place to a standstill.

“She was half slumped over the frying area with her hands still in the basket and in shock,” her supervisor told me.

He and some co-workers moved her over to a chair and wrapped cool towels around her hands. Her upper face and left eye had been splattered by the hot oil.

Our settlement offer was based on a body as a whole impairment. This was accepted, bringing to an end a very painful case.

Millie, a 21-year-old single mother hired just nine days prior, was hospitalized in a burn care unit.

When I spoke with manager Ed Stanton about the basket locks, he noted that the locks “normally are quick to release with just a bit of pressure. I can’t fathom why this one didn’t.”

The branch had been using that particular unit for three years, with no previous issues reported.

Ed said that Millie “had our usual on-the-job training … shadowing an existing employee to get the hang of things,” but there was no fryer-specific training.

“Had Millie been required to wear a hairnet or protective gear?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, “a hairnet of course and we do provide plastic glasses, but I don’t know if she was wearing them.”

I asked how often the fryer was cleaned and inspected, to which Ed said, “When it needed to be. But it’s always in use.”

My next question surprised him. I asked whether Millie drank alcohol. He retorted, “Well, it’s not for me to know or say, is it?”

The case manager and I spoke later. Millie had third-degree burns on both hands requiring extensive cleansing of the dead skin, a lot of intravenous fluid drips, antibiotic creams and pain medications.

Subsequently, there’d be numerous skin grafts. Her eye was washed and medicated drops used. No loss of the eye itself was expected.

Our case manager hesitated a few seconds after I asked if there was any blood alcohol testing.

“The claimant was in acute distress, actually shock,” she said. “They needed to stabilize her, so nothing of that sort was done.”

Millie’s prognosis remained guarded.

She was unable to work, unable to care for her family, unable to drive, and she experienced recurring nightmares.

After discharge there would be physical therapy and eventually work hardening. Return to work was estimated between 4 and 6 months. A homemaker would be required to care for Millie’s young daughter.

I spoke with the corporate risk manager, Frank Duclos, about the mechanics of the injury.

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Polite, but circumspect, he only disclosed that “we’ve taken a look at it and nothing untoward was found.”

I concluded nothing else would come of the issue.

Case management reports reflected limited progress over the next few months. The claimant continued to have nightmares and crying bouts.

Six months passed with no return to work. When Millie was discharged to regular duty, we scheduled an independent medical exam.

Our settlement offer was based on a body as a whole impairment. This was accepted, bringing to an end a very painful case.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]