Interiano-Lopez v. Tyson Fresh MeatsAnnotate this Case
In 2013, Wilmer Interiano-Lopez was living in Sioux City, Iowa, and working for Tyson at a meatpacking plant in Dakota City, Nebraska. One of his jobs involved cutting the stomach or “paunch” of cows to allow the contents to fall out as they were processed on the “dump paunch line.” One day, Interiano-Lopez was working with a trainee who was hanging meat incorrectly and it was falling off the hooks as it passed down the dump paunch line. Interiano-Lopez had to lift and place the meat back on the hooks to complete his work, and his hands and arms became increasingly fatigued. At one point, a paunch fell from the hook and hit Interiano-Lopez on the right shoulder. He felt a pop in his shoulder and began experiencing severe pain and loss of strength in his arm. Interiano-Lopez was taken to the plant infirmary and thereafter to a hospital emergency room. He was diagnosed with a shoulder separation and was referred for orthopedic evaluation and treatment. In March 2014, Interiano-Lopez, through counsel, filed a petition in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court seeking a determination of the rights and liabilities of the parties regarding the dump paunch line. Interiano-Lopez sought to be declared permanently and totally disabled or, in the alternative, to be awarded temporary total disability benefits, ongoing medical benefits, and vocational rehabilitation training. Tyson answered, including what it characterized as a counterclaim. Tyson denied liability, alleged Interiano-Lopez’ physical problems were caused by a preexisting condition, and alleged Interiano-Lopez had “received some workers’ compensation benefits for which [Tyson] is entitled to a credit.” The compensation court dismissed the petition but proceeded to trial on Tyson’s counterclaim and found Interiano-Lopez had failed to prove a workplace injury. Interiano-Lopez appealed. Because the Supreme Court concluded the compensation court acted without authority and in excess of its powers by proceeding to trial rather than dismissing the cause, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court and remanded the case with directions to dismiss.