Lawsuit Claims Maintenance Technician Killed by Malfunctioning Robot

Automation has transformed the productivity of manufacturing since industrial robots first started painting, cutting, welding and assembling in the 1960s

A lawsuit has been filed after a maintenance technician working on a robotic assembly line was reportedly “trapped by robotic machinery” and crushed to death.

The Ionia Sentinel-Standard reports in July of 2015, Wanda Halbrook was performing routine duties as a maintenance technician on an assembly line at Ventra Ionia Main when a robot allegedly malfunctioned. The robot, which was designed to load a trailer-hitch assembly part, attempted to load the part where Halbrook stood, crushing her between it and another piece of machinery.

William Holbrook, Wanda’s husband, filed a wrongful death complaint in Michigan federal court last week naming five American companies involved in the manufacturing of the robot: Prodomax, Flex-N-Gate, FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric.

Holbrook was performing her regular maintenance in the auto plant where bumpers and trailer hitches are fitted by robotic machinery. A robot allegedly malfunctioned and loaded a piece of hardware directly onto Holbrook’s head, crushing her skull. She was eventually found by co-workers. The lawsuit taken out by Holbrook’s husband alleges:

The lawsuit alleges:

The robot from section 130 should have never entered section 140, and should have never attempted to load a hitch assembly within a fixture that was already loaded with a hitch assembly. A failure of one or more of defendants’ safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda’s death.

The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states “studies indicate that many robot accidents occur during non-routine operating conditions, such as programming, maintenance, testing, setup, or adjustment. During many of these operations the worker may temporarily be within the robot’s working envelope where unintended operations could result in injuries.”

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan_ or email him at