Bill Holbrook has been told a final report from the state agency investigating the 57-year-old’s death is expected to take three to four months.
Holbrook tries not to think of Wanda’s last minutes trapped in robotic machinery that left her with such severe head injuries the funeral home recommended a closed casket.
Even if her employer, Ventra Ionia Main, is cited for her death, Holbrook doubts he’ll take legal action against the Ionia automotive supplier. It would be too hard to win under Michigan law, he has been told, although he retained an attorney.
“They are really tough cases,” said Nelson Miller, associate dean of the Grand Rapids campus of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.
The Workers Compensation Disability Act prevents negligence claims against employers and coworkers across the country, in exchange for providing benefits to workers or their families in the case of injury or death.
However, in other states, employers can be sued for “recklessness” causing death or injury. In Michigan, it must be proven that there was an intentional effort to harm a worker.
If there is legal action, it is often taken against a third party that made, installed or serviced a product used in the workplace that caused or contributed to the injury or death.
It is also tougher to qualify for benefits here, said Miller, adding that the Michigan Legislature has been tightening the compensation laws. Injured workers who qualify for workers’ compensation receive 80 percent of take home pay and coverage of medical bills, while a flat amount is awarded for workplace deaths.