Submitted: March 11, 1996
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND
41-year old bun wrap operator for large commercial bakery
reported tripping and falling at work, striking her left
shoulder, hip, jaw and head. Insurer denied occurrence of
accident based on evidence claimant had stated, not long
before the accident, that she was looking for way to go on
disability, that coworkers had not observed accident or dirt
on claimant's uniform, that she did not immediately
report the incident to her supervisors, and that she did not
mention the incident in a physical therapy session on the
same day of the alleged accident.
WCC credited all witnesses, including claimant, and resolved
testimony so as to conclude claimant was injured as claimed.
and Accident: Accident. Although insurer had good
reasons for questioning occurrence of fall alleged by bakery
worker, WCC credited testimony of claimant that fall occurred
and found apparently conflicting evidence reconcilable with
trial in this matter was held in Billings, Montana, on
Wednesday, November 15, 1995, and Tuesday, February 6, 1996.
Petitioner, Marian Mass. (claimant), was present at all times
and represented by Mr. Patrick R. Sheehy. Respondent,
Lumbermens Mutual Casualty (Lumbermens), was represented by
Mr. Michael P. Heringer.
Exhibits 1, 2, and 5 through 19 were admitted. (There is no
Exhibit 3.) Exhibit 4 was refused. Exhibit 20, which had been
returned to Mr. Heringer at the close of the first trial, was
admitted as amended at the second trial.
Marian Maas, Sherry Reinhardt, Michelle Mattfeldt, Ben Auck,
Don Nottingham, James Nelson, Scott Miller, Mitch Holmgren,
Deborah Weisgarber, Steven Massey and Mark Amendola were all
sworn and testified.
Depositions: The depositions of Marian Maas, Dr.
John Moseley, Mark Amendola, Sandra Ford, P.A., and Dr.
William Bredehoft, Ph.D. were submitted for the Court's
presented: The claimant seeks a determination that she
suffered a work-related injury on March 13, 1995, and that
she is entitled to wage loss and medical benefits. She also
seeks attorney fees and a penalty. If the Court finds the
respondent is not liable for claimant's injury, the
insurer seeks reimbursement for benefits paid under a
reservation of rights.
considered the Pretrial Order, the Addendum to Pretrial
Order, the testimony presented at trial, the demeanor and
credibility of the witnesses, the depositions and exhibits,
and the arguments of the parties, the Court makes the
the time of trial claimant was 41 years old. She is divorced
and resides in Laurel, Montana, with two of her three
children. Her third child is an adult.
Claimant is a high school and college graduate. She has a
bachelor of science degree in Business Administration
Management from the University of Montana, which she earned
Claimant has worked for Interstate Brands for the last 16
years. Interstate is a large commercial bakery with a
production facility in Billings, Montana.
During her tenure at Interstate, claimant has held a number
of different positions. She worked initially in the
company's thrift store. Thereafter, she worked in
sanitation. Later she was hired to work in the production
process, where she has worked ever since. In production she
began as a relief worker but was later promoted to bun
wrap operator, a position in which she has continued to
Interstate makes a variety of bread products on a very large
scale. The process is an assembly line version of bread
making, one hardly recognizable to the home bread maker.
Bread is baked on a massive scale. In the case of buns and
bun-related products, the baking process is as follows:
a. Initially, a dough mixture is prepared from flour, water,
yeast and other ingredients. Different breads and other bread
products use different mixtures or formulas.
b. The resulting "sponge set" (dough with yeast
already added) is then placed in a temperature controlled,
fermenting room to rise for several hours.
c. After rising, the dough is removed from the fermentation
room. Additional ingredients, as necessary, are added. It is
then re-mixed or kneaded. In the case of dough which is to be
made into buns, it is then put through a machine called a
"panamat." The panamat cuts the dough into
individual buns or bun-type products.
d. After leaving the panamat, the buns go through a
"proofer" where they rise a second time.
e. The buns are then baked in an oven.
f. After baking, the buns are cooled and transferred via
conveyor belt to the wrapping areas where they are sliced and
entire process takes several hours. The fermentation process,
which begins with the mixing of the dough and involves steps
a through d takes approximately three hours. It takes
approximately another hour and a half to two hours to
complete the process, including packaging.
Bun Wrap Lines
Bun wrap operators package the buns and put the
packages on pallets for transfer to the bakery warehouse for
Interstate makes numerous types of buns, including
"coneys" (which are the hot dog buns every baseball
fan knows and loves), steak rolls, hamburger buns, and bread
sticks. Some are plain, others have sesame seeds, still
others use cornmeal. Different types of buns require
different ingredients. Thus, different dough
"formulas" are used for different varieties of
Different buns are packaged differently. Thus, the bun wrap
area of the bakery has three different bun wrapping lines:
"Pillow Pack," "United," and
"Formost." The three lines are used one at a time.
are delivered to the bun wrap area via a conveyor belt
system. Upon reaching the bun wrap area, the buns are
directed to the different lines by mechanical switches which
determine the line to which the buns are delivered. When the
type of buns change to a type requiring a different line, the
bun wrap operators move the switches so that the conveyor
delivers the new buns to the proper line. One product is
wrapped at a time. Only one line is in operation at any time.
bun wrapping lines are physically located next to each other
in the following order, located from left to right when
looking at them from the end of the lines:
diagram of the bun wrap area is attached to this decision as
bun wrap lines are staffed by three bun wrap operators. Bun
wrap operators perform three functions.
a. First, they "index" the buns. Indexing involves
examining the buns as they proceed down the conveyor, picking
out and discarding the irregular buns and righting up-side
down buns. The indexer's job is to make sure the buns
enter the wrapping machines properly.
b. Second, they manage the actual operation of the bun
wrapping machines. This task requires the operator to set up
the machine for the various products, stock it with bags, and
monitor the output.
c. Third, they "pallet" the buns.
"Palleting" involves removing the packaged buns
from the conveyor and stacking them on pallets. The palleter
then moves full pallets to another conveyor which transports
the pallets to the warehouse for shipping.
indexer is positioned at the beginning of the line, the
machine operator at the middle, and the palleter at the very
three bun wrap operators work as a team and rotate their
duties. The work requires the operators to work quickly and
the last eight years the claimant has worked with Sherry
Reinhardt and Michelle Mattfeldt. Working together, the three
form one of the bun wrapping teams at the bakery. The ...