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Woman sues after severing four fingers in meat grinder

A Larimore, N.D., woman who severed four fingers in an electric meat grinder is suing the companies that designed and sold the machine she alleges was defective.

A Larimore, N.D., woman who severed four fingers in an electric meat grinder is suing the companies that designed and sold the machine she alleges was defective.

Ruth Bornsen, 53, and her husband, Nathan, are seeking more than $150,000 in damages from Pragotrade, an Ohio-based firm, and Cabela's, a Nebraska-based retailer.

In November 2007, Bornsen was helping her husband at his meat-processing business in Emerado, N.D. She was operating a 1½-horsepower, commercial-grade grinder purchased the month before at Cabela's outdoors supply store in East Grand Forks.

The Bornsens' complaint says she had not read the instruction manual but had seen her husband use the machine. A plastic plunger came with the grinder to push meat into the grinder's chute. But because meat stuck to the plunger, she was not using it, the complaint says.

Wearing latex gloves for handling food, Bornsen was pushing deer meat into the grinder with her left hand when the grinder's screw caught the tip of at least one of her glove fingers and pulled her hand into the grinder, the complaint states.


"My first thought was to shut off the machine, but I could not find an off-switch. I remember screaming for my husband and then grabbing the cord and jerking it until the machine stopped," Bornsen said in an affidavit. "I then remember looking at my hand without the fingers."

Her husband wrapped her hand in a towel, removed her four fingers from the grinder, put them in a bucket and took her to Grand Forks to receive medical care, court documents say.

The couple's complaint says Bornsen has undergone several surgeries and faces more surgeries and therapy to rehabilitate her hand. However, the document does not explicitly say if her fingers have been successfully re-attached.

The complaint alleges the grinder's chute was too large and that the machine lacked sufficient safety warnings.

Pragotrade denies those allegations and counters that the couple's negligence caused Bornsen's injuries. The company's response to the suit says the opening on the grinder's chute is 2¾-inches wide.

The grinder has a label that reads, "WARNING: Keep fingers out of feed chute," along with a picture of fingers getting caught. The Bornsens' complaint says the label was under a tray and could not be seen when using the grinder under normal conditions.

The complaint says Pragotrade manufactured the grinder, but the company denies making the product. Pragotrade acknowledges it took part in designing the grinder and that it sold grinders to Cabela's.

Cabela's is asking to be dismissed from the suit because it did not manufacture the grinder. Attorneys are set to discuss that issue Feb. 2 at a federal court hearing in Fargo.


Calls to the Bornsens' home rang unanswered Tuesday. Their attorney declined to comment on the case as did an attorney for Cabela's. A message left for Pragotrade's lawyer was not returned Tuesday.

Ingersoll reports on crime and courts. Reach him at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com .

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