Tool Addicts

Tool Addicts

How to Win $1.5-Million: Lessons from the Tablesaw Lawsuit

comments (44) June 30th, 2010 in blogs

patrick_mccombe Patrick McCombe, contributor
thumbs up 29 users recommend


Like many woodworkers and carpenters I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first read about the Carlos Osorio lawsuit. I wondered how somebody who had violated almost every tablesaw safety rule could successfully sue a tablesaw manufacturer for $1.5 million in damages.

My first assumption was that the jury must have been completely unfamiliar with power tools and their proper operation. I also thought (and still do) that Osorio’s employer, a flooring company, and not the manufacturer, Ryobi, should be on the hook for not adequately training the young man, who had never used a power tool before he was hired.

So when the court transcript was posted to the Pacer Court Records database on June 3, I couldn’t wait to read exactly what happened in that courtroom. I’ve been reading the documents between working my regular job, buying a house, and packing for a move, so I’ve only made it through 500 of the nearly 1,100 pages of transcript, but I think I’m starting to understand how Osorio and his legal team won their suit. 

I think the verdict boils down to successfully playing on the jury’s emotions. In their opening statement, Osorio’s legal team presented TTI, Ryobi’s parent company, as a huge multinational corporation led by people who put profits ahead of customer safety. They cited sales figures that show between 2001 and 2008, the Taiwan-based company sold 200,000 BTS15 tablesaws valued at more than $37 million. During the same period, they sold $550 million in tablesaws of all types.  Both figures are based on U.S. sales only.



posted in: blogs, Tablesaw, sawstop, Ryobi, lawsuit, osorio, carlos osorio


Comments (44)

E_Miller E_Miller writes: You want to reduce table saw injuries? Don't let morons use table saws. I don't care what kind of safeguards are applied to piece of equipment, stupid people will always find ever more creative ways of injuring/killing themselves. I have been using a table saw for many years and never once have I thought it would be a good idea to remove all safety features and try to rip a piece of oak without the rip fence.
Posted: 3:32 pm on October 10th

weescot weescot writes: Patrick McCombe, from Seumas McCombie (carpenter,joiner ,cabinetmaker tradesman, no a chicken at 75 and still can count to 10 on both hands). first off the most important safety device regarding table saw safety is the two sockets between your ears, and having all guards and anti-kick back devices in place. Seumas has no need or requirement for flesh sensing technology, always uses his wit and concentration when operating a table saw, with many diversions of safety device to choose from at his disposal.
His alternate to safety has all devices placed up front and over head of the cutting tool or blade, which simply and ideally makes more sense. Not 100 per cent fool proof, but nothing is, went to great length to make existing table saws much safer to operate. Many table saw operators including Patrick have never heard of, or seen the Original Jimmy JIG and the Alba table, it is out there, of course safety does not sell, slainte mhath the albannach
Posted: 2:35 pm on October 8th

gmiller25 gmiller25 writes: To Sherpadog...

In your second post defending your comment regarding the Delta X5 table saw, you stated that kickback was the cause for your loss of fingers on your left hand.

It seems rather obvious that you didn't take the time to properly tune your fence to widen the gap at the back end of the cut, and/or if the saw came with a riving knife, you either didn't use it, didn't have a splitter on the back end of the cut, or weren't using a good quality push stick device to ensure that the stock stayed flat on the table.

Don't criticize Delta, for the type of things that contribute to kickback.
Posted: 4:03 pm on April 4th

Joe Y Joe Y writes: I cannot believe many of the comments about the injustice done to Ryobi. All manufacturers have a responsibility to provide safe products; and most consumers reasonably believe that the products they purchase have been made with safety in mind. Why would anyone want it to be otherwise? Money??

Ryobi didn't want the technology because no one else had it, and their prices would not be competitive. No other company wanted the technology for the same reason. So to be economically safe, no one had it; thereby compromising product safety.

Cars did not have seat belts until the mid '60s. That was only because safety was legislated by the government -- thereby making the playing field level for all manufacturers. Some people squawked and others circumvented the safety devices. I guess they wanted to protect their right to be thrown through a windshield...

Today, cars have safety belts, front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes, radial tires and other features which were inconceivable 45 years ago. Many states, in order to decrease injuries -- and therefore insurance costs -- have made it illegal for anyone to ride in an automobile without wearing a seat belt. All these features have increased the cost of a new car -- but they work wonderfully, and car related deaths are down substantially since the mid '60s, despite increased cars on the roads and increased yearly total milage.

So now, the government will level the playing field for table saws. It's about time. With the economies of scale, the prices will not go up that much, and in forty years, the loss of a finger to a rotating blade will be unheard of.
Posted: 10:31 am on February 9th

Manie Manie writes: When I read this article in FWW magazine I had to smile and think "only in America". Here in good old SOuth Africa if something like this happened to an employee the supervisor would start fearing for his job as he is ultimately responsible for ensuring that only competent people are allowed to use dangerous equipment. The contracting company would also expect a visit from the Department of Labour (who is our government department looking after health and safet in the work place) and will need to explain how this could happen. The company will then be required to pay pay all medical bills, disability costs, time off from work for the employee and a fine to the dept of labour.

The employee also would be issued a warning for using equipment that he knows he is not qualified to use. Our safety act states that if it feels unsafe to use the employee has all rights to refuse to do the job with no repurcussions.

I think the only reason for this award was due to the poor defence presented by Ryobi's lawyers. Most of our safety legislation comes from the British standards, but also some aspect from the American standards.

Furthermore how far will this be taken? Will every piece of equipment with an exposed cutting surface now be required to incorporate a SAWstop type of device. Think about tools such as exposed router bits, jigsaws, angle grinders etc.

Totally ridiculous!!
Posted: 2:48 am on July 16th

Sherpadog Sherpadog writes: To those of you who criticized my post - read it again. I am a highly trained professional woodworker who was using safety equipment when the accident happened (plastic push stick — never use the metal ones, they can catch in the blade) I was also using a Brett guard,

The Sawstop was not up to pro grade when I bought my saw and none of my regular dealers carried it, so I could not get a proper demo anyway. All I had to go on was a couple of paragraphs in FWW. I since found out that the Sawstop guys had opened the patent. As I said, money was - and never will be - my primary reason for buying a tool. That’s why I bought the high end Delta and fitted it with a Brett guard, a Beismeyer fence and an HTC roller outfeed table.

The accident was caused by kickback. I truly hope that all major saw makers adopt Sawstop technology. Remember when cars had no seat belts?
Posted: 5:52 pm on July 7th

RDM75 RDM75 writes: There is a difference here between someone in their own shop and someone working in a production situation for someone else.
The supervisor is responsible to make sure that all the safety devices are supplied, on site and being used. That is the law in the state of Washington and I am assuming most other states. It is ridicules to keep blaming untrained workers for accidents. You cannot "assume" this guy knew a table saw fence from a garden rake. In my years in the trades I have seen "mentors" teach apprentices to use the saw without a fence. Flooring guys, which is what I think this guy was, regularly use small table saws without the fence or guard. We are constantly fighting with them to do otherwise.
It doesn't matter if the guy was 17 or 37, if he is new to the trade he must be trained and it is legally, and in my mind, morally, the responsibility of the supervisor and the company. It is time those in a supervisory position start taking some "personal responsibility" for their job and stop passing everything off onto the people they are supposed to be supervising. One of the reasons supervisors are paid more than the rookies is that it is their job to make sure all of the workers go home every night in good shape to come back to work the next day. Until that idea is understood and practiced we will continue to deal with what appear to be frivolous law suits.
Posted: 5:23 pm on July 7th

mtria mtria writes: IANAL, but on the face of what happened here, this appears to be an outrageous outcome. That said, not only am I not an attorney, but I haven't read the transcript. It is not difficult to ridicule any complex process by reducing it to a few sentences. So while I have an opinion, I also recognize that the opinion is formed on the basis of minimal information, and also on the concerns that I have for what the consequences to my hobby will be.

To Patrick McCombe, if you are anot an attorney, you have my awe at your willingness to read through 1200 pages of transcript. I have never managed more than 200 pages on any one hearing myself, and suffered a splitting headache thereafter.

We would all like to think that the law is about justice, but that is only an ideal. The law is more about providing the minimal code of conduct required in our dealings with one another. From that viewpoint, the continuity and expectations of behavior that precedence provide for, are often seen as a greater good than justice. As a society there is an enormous need to know what we owe each other. In any case, as problematic as some individual decisions may be, courts of law are a better solution than trial by armed combat.

In general the civil jury is to decide a case based on a criteria of 50+% probability of who owes what to whom. So even if a jury performs all its determinations and calculations properly, that decision point may still result in up to 49.99+% incorrect verdicts. We can all wish it were otherwise.

Cries for civil tort reform abound every time there is some case where the verdict is either ridiculous, or appears to be ridiculous. I suspect that it is more often the appearance than the fact. The overwhelming majority of civil cases, in some states as high as 90%, are business v business rather than involving individuals. Some of these suits make the one against Ryobi look sane. Some of them do far more damage, both collateral and direct to individuals and corporations than any personal suit has ever done.

I have been watching one intellectual property case that has plagued an entire community made up of millions, as well as a number of large corporations and mega-corporations for seven years. Amongst other issues, the plaintiff claimed it had proof of millions of lines of copyright infringing computer code on software it did not own the copyrights to. In the end they couldn't demonstrate even one line of infringing code even if they had owned the copyrights. Given the legal requirements for copyright ownership, the plaintiffs knew, or should have known, that they didn't own the code. I don't understand why the plaintiffs attorneys have not been disbarred, or the plaintiffs themselves are not in some deep hole for perpetrating fraud on the court.

Is the above case wrong? Absolutely! I have followed it in enough detail to have a respectable opinion on the matter. Should the plaintiffs have been barred from bringing the case -- no. Should it have been dispatched more quickly -- yes, seven years were far too long. But just because something has a bad outcome doesn't mean the process is wrong.

IANAL so my opinions are illegal
Posted: 12:45 pm on July 7th

housebuilder08 housebuilder08 writes: Get those idiots in the court room out of there and put people in there that have common sense. People need to be properly trained...especially if they use equipment to make their living.
I recently heard the courts ruled in favor of allowing someone to wear a turban instead of a hard hat...as if that is going to protect them!!!
Soon it will ok to wear open toed sandals on a job site... if we don't get people with common sense making decisions to enforce the laws that the Minisrty of Labour already has in place for our safety more and more people will be injured and looking somebody to sue for compensation.

JWB
Posted: 8:06 am on July 7th

loveww loveww writes: Sorry ... I meant to say I agree with Mr. Patrick McCombe instead of IGOTWOOD.

My error and apologies.

loveww
Posted: 3:28 am on July 7th

loveww loveww writes: I am a lawyer and stuff like this makes me sicker than I already am at practicing law for almost 30 years.

All of this talk to me is nothing more than idle speculation and a waste of time.

The theory of Defendant Ryobi's liability here is based on products liability law which is classified as a "tort" in legal parlance. Essentially, "tort" is a stylized Latin translation for "doing wrong to another" and injuries caused to one person by another fall under the descriptor of "torts".

Generally speaking, in order to prevail at trial like this a Plaintiff must prove four things (elements of proof) in court. First that Defendant (Ryobi) owed Plaintiff a "legal duty". Defendant breached that legal duty owed to Plaintiff. Defendant's breach of legal duty did in fact cause Plaintiff's injury. And lastly, that Plaintiff has sustained damages (injuries that cost the Plaintiff money including pain, suffering and costs of suit exclusive of counsel fees except in certain, special situations).

Now the yardsticks by which one side or the other has to prove or disprove all of these four (4) "elements of proof" are governed by prior case law and statutes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Together these principles establish what (in Massachusetts only while other states may be similar) is the "legal standard" a Defendant has to breach in order to be liable for a Plaintiff's damages.

I am no expert in Tort Law nor do I practice in Massachusetts. But it seems to me solely based on my "legal intuition" and practical experience of nearly 30 years that a sharp and crafty Plaintiffs' attorney presented a the jury with a factual case of gruesome and horrendus injury coupled with compelling shock value that MAYBE caused the jury to ignore applying the appropriate law (done by the Judge in jury instruction) correctly. In addition Plaintiffs' counsel did his investigation and homework well in showing that Ryobi had "considered" the technology and then abandoned the idea.

From the defense side, there is apparently no discussion of how "personal responsibility" play a role in every injury. Not to mention in products liability cases. And defenses like this often boil down to being something like the Plaintiff misused the product stupidly and we're not at fault and not going to pay. Again there are the same yardsticks in the form of prior case law and statutes that create a legal standard for a Defendant to make this factual case to limit or absolve itself from liability.

Moreover and in spite of all the good press to the contrary, the Saw-Stop inventor is just not the nice guy everyone makes him out to be. As reported in Woodshop News at the time it happened, this fellow went so far as to SUE the national Bureau of Standards (or some other Federal regulatory agency for power tools) to have his Saw Stop technology included as a NEW standard in EVERY saw sold in the USA. And as far as I know, the Federal agency turned him down flat. Thus he was compelled to independently market his OWN product, incorporating the technology to stop the saw blade.

So from every business aspect possible, the Saw-Stop people have an identifiable and biased interest in showing and taking to trial every case of gruesome and horrendous injury where their product COULD have POSSIBLY stopped the injury before it happened.

So while I agree with IGOTWOODs conclusion about the jury, I am much more interested to see how the APPEAL from Ryobi plays out over time. Big money cases and cases of high precedental value like this one are rarely finished at the initial trial stage, where the jury awards the Plaintiff money damages.

The real fight comes on appeal. And I'll bet you that this guy will never see anywhere near that much money at the end of the day. Or that if he does see any significant bucks, there will be a private settlement wherein the Plaintiff and future prospective Plaintiffs will be contractually barred from using certain evidence.

And as for Ryboi's lawyers, if there was insurance coverage involved, bet money that the lawyers provided by the carriers were there because they are CHEAP not because they are GOOD or EXPERTS in Products Liability Defense. And I can almost guarantee not one of the primary defense counsel was a woodworker, carpenter, tool aficionado or hardware store junkie nor had ever used or even been familiar with the product that caused Plaintiff's injuries. As with everything else in life, so in law -- you get what you pay for. And in many cases fire in the belly that insurance hacks will not have loses cases for cheap defendants just as often as bad preparation, professional competence, and so on.


I would like to see FWW or Taunton seek out and get an expert opinion written by a Torts law professor or someone from the Products Liability defense bar to analyze and handicap this case. And preferably, he should be a WOODWORKER so he can understand the legal, factual and vocational aspects of the tools, their use and potential for operator injury.

Posted: 3:26 am on July 7th

chocolatehills chocolatehills writes: I don't drink coffee, but I love hot chocolate. If I could order my cocoa at any temp... I would ask for boiling or hotter if possible! I like it hot and if it came in at 140 measly degrees, I would go elsewhere, period. I think McD also thought that. That's BS about saving money because it stays tastier longer at higher temp, just plain BS...
Posted: 3:02 am on July 7th

igotwood igotwood writes: I haven't read all the comments, so i don't know if someone said this already, but to all you people saying "big deal it's not like 1.5 million is that much anymore..." THAT'S NOT THE POINT!! If i remember correctly when this story first broke one of the major issues is that the saw did not have a saw stop on it. yeah how bout we wrap all cars in 2 feet of bubble wrap and drop the speed limit down to 10?! Your doing a dangerous job use your head! Also if i remember correctly he was not using a fence to do a rip. I don't care if you've never used a saw before in your life, i'm sure the minimal amount of training he did recieve clearly showed a fence being used.

Here in Montreal a woman recieved a $300 ticket for not holding on the the guardrail of the escalator. This situation reminds me of that. the powers that be have decided that it's not up to the user to excercize common sense and deal with the consequences of our own actions instead they just try swoop down like some kind of overbearing parent and try to childproof the world. some job are inherently dangerous. If your not prepared to deal with that then find another line of work. This just seems like a case of an "educated" man think that he could do and "uneducated" man's job and he paid the consequences.
Posted: 12:46 am on July 7th

RDM75 RDM75 writes: I think there are a couple of misconceptions here.
The lawsuit against McDonald's for the coffee was not all clear. It is my understanding McDonald's served their coffee at 180 degrees where all the other major fast food outlets had dropped the temp down closer to 140 degrees. Also this was not the first lawsuit or warning to McDonald's that they should be doing the same thing.
The other thing I don't understand is why the GC or the owner of the building weren't held responsible. You cannot sue your employer by law but the GC is responsible for proper safety practices among the subs and the building owner is responsible to hire responsible contractors.
Also someone said all the "safety devices" but the riving knife should be removed. That statement is about as irresponsible as any business person can make. You might as well say I don't care about any of my employees. I have cut my hand and know damn well what it is like when your boss throws away the safety devices even when he was asked to replace them so I could safely use the saw. And yes, you are right I should have quit or maybe I should have sued the company. All the guards I have seen work just fine when set up correctly and used properly. I have more than 30 years in commercial construction so I have seen my share of tools and safety devices. I have also heard every excuse in the book, or at least it seems that way.
The last note is that the only way to get companies to build tools that are as safe as currently possible is through financial penalties or government regulation. You can pick your poison but it has to be one or the other or we will go back to the work conditions of the 19th century.
I do agree there is a certain amount of personal responsibility, especially when people don't follow safety rules, but when companies, out of greed, take away, don't use or at least make available the safety provisions already out there, they deserve to pay the piper.
Posted: 11:17 pm on July 6th

MP5SD MP5SD writes: What interesting dialogues! This case reminds me of recent firearms tort where plaintiffs alleged that firearm manufacturers were liable for deaths as a result of one human killing (shooting) another human using a gun made by that particular company. I feel the essential question was do firearms kill people and by inference, do firearms manufacturers kill people? Or could it be that people kill people- all are terrible tragedies, no doubt about it. To me people harm others using whatever instrument may be at hand. If it not a gun it would have been something else, heck, maybe even a table saw! Holding the maker of the gun liable for a death is to me, like holding the ocean responsible for being salty, because if you drink enough seawater you will also die- but it is not the fault of the ocean, is it. A company’s decision to use or not use a technology based on profit motive, and market position is reasonable and is at the core of our economic system. At the risk of sounding elitist, I would not spend my money for the saw in question at the current street price, and absolutely would not waste my hard earned money for it if it cost any extra with any safety device, preferring to rely on my judgment and skills as a woodworker. And yes, I have injured myself using power tools, but it was not the saws fault, it was mine. I harbor no anger, or grudge against my Jet Cabinet Saw or Jet, or the WMH Tool Group, rather, it is my daily reminder to take care and respect the tool, always. Product liability cases (large awards) are appropriate when there is a more clearly defined set of negligent conditions with a product say, baby pajamas that are very flammable, or tainted food that is knowingly put in the market, or tobacco products that are known carcinogens. Not limiting the liability in cases like these I hope serve as an incentive for companies to do the right thing first and always. Look at the mess that BP has wrought to our country and people in the Gulf in particular. And for what? It seems to me that that the plaintiffs legal team, almost certainly with the help of SawStop corporation and of course the willing participation of the plaintiff, and his (former?) employer (who is probably really relieved that he was not the target of the suit) exploited a hole in the legal process that targets manufacturers and tends to completely ignore that old, long gone practice called “Personal Accountability”. We need this back in all its forms and right now. I have wanted to buy a SawStop since they came to market but now I will NEVER buy one, even though I can get an employee discount on it- yes, there are some things more important than money.
Posted: 8:24 pm on July 6th

joe4liberty joe4liberty writes: Steve, 140-150ºF coffee cannot be "spilled safely". And no, I do not have a coffee maker at home, my wife uses a French Press because she likes hot coffee... which means, she boils the water, pours it into the press, presses the coffee and pours it into her cup. If she should spill it on herself, who should be sued? The tea kettle manufacturer? The stove manufacturer? the French Press manufacturer? For the love of all that is holy, if you pour scalding liquid on yourself you will get scalded, and yes, 140-150 F can scald you.
Perhaps McDonalds should not have been who was sued, but rather the auto manufacturer who put a cup holder in the vehicle, after all, when driving, one should be doing just that, not drinking coffee... see my previous post to discover why. Anyone willing to place a cup of obviously hot liquid between their legs in a car should not be able to sue the person (or company) who made that liquid hot in the first place - regardless of temperature (and yes, the plaintiff in that case admitted to placing the cup between her legs which is what caused her to grab for it and then spill it).
Let's all say it together shall we - - Individual Liberty means Personal Responsibility... you cannot have one without the other.

Posted: 8:03 pm on July 6th

saschafer saschafer writes:
@joe4liberty:

Do you happen to have a coffeemaker at home? If so, try this little experiment: Brew some coffee, and let it sit in the carafe on the machine's heater for a few minutes to equilibrate. Now measure the temperature.

What did you get? If your coffeemaker is in good order, you'll find that the temperature of the coffee is around 140-150ºF. That's what "hot coffee" means. That's also approximately the maximum temperature of liquid that you can put in your mouth without causing serious injury.

McDonald's held their coffee at 180-190ºF. Why? Because it takes longer for it to begin to taste stale when held at that temperature. (In other words, they did it to save money.)

McDonald's, as a matter of policy, served coffee that was much hotter than anyone else's coffee, with the full knowledge that it was far too hot to be drunk safely (or, for that matter, to be spilled safely). And they continued to do so even after receiving hundreds of complaints that their coffee was so hot as to be unsafe. It was specifically this "willful recklessness" that the judge cited when he ruled against them.

-Steve

Posted: 7:35 pm on July 6th

RussQ RussQ writes: sherpadog
The sawstop saws have been available for a minimum of 5 yrs, so who is responsible if money was not a factor?! The price of these saws has gone from $2000 each to over $3000 over this time. I do not believe that any manufacturer could add this technology for $200 each, the brake cartridges are $70-$80 each as well.
You don't say how your injury occurred, and if you have been a professioal, then you should have known better, a moments lapse in concentration is not the saw's fault, nor is unsafe or incorrect technique that you may have been using for years and your luck finally ran out.
You're another who wants somebody else to pay for your mistake!
Posted: 7:31 pm on July 6th

joe4liberty joe4liberty writes: Shaperdog, I'm sorry to hear about your accident, but it was not Delta's fault that you own a Delta instead of a Sawstop. It is your responsibility to sell your saw and buy a new one if you think that what you are using is not safe; your responsibility - no one else’s, just as it is your responsibility to get rid of any tools that you cannot use safely. I'm sorry that you cut your fingers, honestly I am, but it is not Delta's fault, they NEVER claimed that having a sharp blade spinning at thousands of RPM would be safe, yet you chose to work with one anyway, that makes it your responsibility - period!
Do you drive a car? Did you know that after heart attacks, motor vehicles kill more Americans than anything else, and seatbelts, and airbags have not done much to curb that number. Since you know that, it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe. Can you do so safely in a moving vehicle? Your decision to make, not the auto manufacturers. If you want a guarantee that you will be safe, do not get into a moving automobile - ever! Yet we keep buying cars... Just as you bought a Delta saw instead of a Sawstop saw (yes, the sawstop was out 3 years ago - the first models went on sale late in 2004), because you felt that you were capable enough to use a Delta saw safely and did not need to spend the additional money for the Sawstop. Your decision to buy the Delta instead of the Sawstop was a personal decision, and I do not blame you for that, but it was your decision, and now you want to blame that decision on the Delta Corporation?!?!?! For shame!!
To read all of the posts that claim that this lawsuit even resembled justice makes me sick for my country - man am I glad that I chose not to have children!

Saschafer: it is not possible to keep coffee in a liquid state hotter than boiling temperature (it becomes a vapor above that temperature – witch varies with elevation above sea level), therefore the McDonalds coffee was as hot as they advertised that it was. Boiling coffee will scald a person – but it will also stay hot longer than luke-warm coffee, which is why people buy hot coffee. It is the responsibility of the person buying coffee advertised as being hot enough to scald said person to handle the coffee with care... just as it is the responsibility of a person putting wood into a spinning blade to do so safely. Do accidents happen? yes, that's why they are called accidents, and the juries should not only find in favor of the defendants in such cases, they should find that the defendant's suit was frivolous and hand down a fine to the plaintiffs in the two aforementioned cases.

Russr: Thank-you, you said it better than anyone ever could. To anyone who missed his post, go back and read it.

Posted: 7:03 pm on July 6th

hedge42 hedge42 writes: I think i'll keep my fingers and follow the simple safety rules that any sane person should know by heart....$1.5 m doesn't go as far as it used to.

Rule #1 - Remove all the 'safety devices' except for the riving knife, as they often make the operation MORE dangerous.

Rule #2 - Always remember that a razor sharp blade is spinning at 3450rpm mere inches from your hands. Proceed with caution.
Posted: 6:59 pm on July 6th

jmedgar jmedgar writes: Is the forum a comparative negligence state? The jury may have decided that while the plaintiff was negligent, the defendant was also negligent. If both were equally negligent and the total proven damage was $3 million, then the damage award of $1.5 million seems reasonable.

Also, folks, $1.5 million is not that much for a lifetime of disfigurement and impairment -- not considering lifetime earnings.
Posted: 5:56 pm on July 6th

Sherpadog Sherpadog writes: 3 weeks ago I cut off 3 eft hand fingers with my Delta cabinet saw. Had Delta included SawStop technology on my 3 year old saw, I would not have gone through this trauma. Incidentally, I was using safety equipment when this happened. I’m 62 and have been a professional woodworker all my life. Does Delta owe me for passing up the technology that could have saved me. Yes. They had access to the technology and purposely chose not to install it even though I would have paid the premium price. My Delta is a 5 HP X5, so money wasn’t my major concern. The Sawstop cabinet saw was not yet ready when I bought my saw.
Posted: 5:29 pm on July 6th

Will_Matney Will_Matney writes: It's like I said in earlier posts, that tort reform at the federal level is needed.

We have to remember that even though there were two supposedly expert witnesses, who say that a guard wouldn't have helped, and I would have to question this considerably, and we remember that the man forced the wood through the saw, it was both his and the employers fault in my opinion.

If tort reform came to be, at the federal level through legislation, it would trump all state laws. If they would put a cap on the pay-outs to the one bringing suit, and a cap on the amount the attorneys are allowed to charge based on a percentage, it would quell a lot of these suits.

In other words, put a cap on the money for the plaintiff by paying out on what was injured, say so much per finger, just like insurance companies do, and put a cap on the attorneys percentage payment, say dropping it from 40% to 20%, or more, capping it there, and that would stop the majority of all this ridiculousness.

Then again, we elect attorneys into the house and the senate, so getting them to agree to it is a different matter. I've heard several make promises, but haven't seen one bit of action on it.
Posted: 5:14 pm on July 6th

PeterDubois PeterDubois writes: Bill Van: excellent question. Theoretically, you could sue Ford, but under Massachusetts law you would have to prove the following (as Osorio did):

1. That your injuries would have been prevented by the laser assist.

2. That Ford knew or should have known that the Edge without laser assist was unreasonably dangerous considering (a) the likelihood of your type of injury, (b) the severity of such injuries, and (c) whether an alternative design (laser assist) to prevent or reduce such injuries was both technically and economically feasible. Ford would not have to make the product perfectly safe, only reasonably safe under foreseeable conditions of use, all things considered .

3. That your own negligence in driving was less responsible for causing the injury than the faulty design. (Actually, on this point Ford would have the burden of proving that your driving was more than 50 percent responsible).

I can think of a lot of reasons that a jury would or would not go for this, but unless there’s some pre-emptive federal regulation that I am unaware of, you could give it a try.

The important point, though, is that you would have to persuade a jury of your fellow citizens. Having read the transcript in the Osorio case, I don’t think the jury was swayed by undue emotion. Instead, I think that the jury just weighed safety more heavily than price, and Ryobi’s responsibility to make a safe product more heavily than Osorio’s responsibility to use it safely. Many FWW readers obviously would have struck a different balance. So might I have done. But that doesn’t mean that the jury was irrational or that the legal system failed to ask all the relevant questions.

rupps: Ryobi’s post-trial motions were not denied until June 8, so they still have a few more days to file a notice of appeal. But the potential grounds for appeal strike me as weak. An successful appeal needs to argue legal error, not just disagreement with the verdict. Appeal or no, keep in mind that this verdict is not a “precedent” in the sense of a decision that other courts are bound to follow. It is only an indication of how other juries are likely to view things. They will probably have to try a few more cases before they can be sure whether this jury is typical -- or whether the defense attorneys can raise their game.
Posted: 4:43 pm on July 6th

ricswood ricswood writes: It doesn't take an 'attorney' to see that there are too many 'lawyers' in this country!! ;(
Posted: 4:25 pm on July 6th

saschafer saschafer writes:
@gsm627:

Let's say you go out and buy a tool, a circular saw. You bring it home, plug it in, and get ready to make your first cut. When you pull the trigger, the saw motor starts up, and at the same time you feel a jolt as the saw delivers an electric shock to your arm. Startled, you drop the saw on your foot, breaking two toes.

It's your own fault, right? You should have known better than to operate a circular saw without wearing steel-toed shoes, right? You should have anticipated the electric shock and put on rubber gloves, right?

This scenario is much closer to the McDonald's case than is the Osorio case. The McDonald's case wasn't about personal responsibility; it was about normal expectations of the characteristics of a product. The McDonald's case wasn't about burning yourself with hot coffee; it was about coffee so hot that it caused full-thickness burns that required skin grafts to repair.

Note also that in the McDonald's case, the plaintiff asked for only $20,000; just enough to cover her medical bills.

-Steve

Posted: 4:05 pm on July 6th

gsm627 gsm627 writes: If someone can sue McDonald's for burning themselves with hot coffee and win, then this latest bought of stupidity shouldn't surprise anyone.

Everyone should be responsible for their own actions, and when your own negligence leads to an injury,suck it up and face the music.
Posted: 3:03 pm on July 6th

rupps rupps writes:

Has Ryobi actually paid or is the Appeal still pending?


Posted: 2:55 pm on July 6th

jerryo jerryo writes: For those of you out there who are distressed about how our society has become so litigious, write your congressman about tort reform........uuuh wait a minute, those guys are all lawyers too.

Never mind!
Posted: 2:39 pm on July 6th

Sawdust_Islander Sawdust_Islander writes: Ruffnek hit the nail on the head. The really sad part is that if Mr. Osorio hadn't been an employee and had broken-in during the night, he'd still walk away wealthy. Bad things happen to good people in Afghanistan every day. How much is a patriot's hand worth? Pat on the back and a purple heart.
Posted: 2:38 pm on July 6th

RUSSR RUSSR writes: Recently there was a post showing a new method of kick back protection.A plate that pops up to protect the user.Does any any one know if Steve Gass is in contract talks to add this technology to his SAWSTOP Saws. He was quick to point out how he was not taken seriously by the the big manufactures and how happy he was with the result of this lawsuit. Now it is his turn to step up and do what he preaches. For the record I would love to have one of his saws, but I like the JET that I have. Would I be liable if I sold or gave my saw to someone else without warning them that they could get hurt using this out dated equipment (its 10 years old). Also automatic feeders have been available for years and your hand never has to come near the blade. Why wasn't this been made standard safety equipment? It would only add a couple of hundred bucks. (If a lawyer uses this idea I only want 10% of the settlement)
Posted: 2:37 pm on July 6th

pumpernickel pumpernickel writes: First of all I am a patent lawyer and I don't do product liability litigation and my exposure to this side of the law dates back to law school, so I am sure the following may be laden with errors. BillVan brings up an interesting hypothetical regarding laser guided cruise control: is it forseeable that someone with the cruise control on will back into another car on the road? - I think w/o a doubt the answer is yes. Is it Ford's duty to protect Bill from doing so with the laser guided cruise control? I don't know, probably for a jury to decide. But what if Toyota has the patent on the laser cruise control and absolutely will not license the technology to others so as to maintain a competitive advantage? Not much Ford can do then b/c no one can make Toyota license a patent to its competitor (sort of). I wonder how different this case would have turned out if Saw Stop wanted to be its own manufacturer from the get go refusing to share its technology. Perhaps the terms of the licensing agreement were so egregious that no one was able to enter into a licensing agreement, which would be tantamount to refusing to license to anyone. As with all legal questions, the devil is in the details of each case.

Spoken like a true attorney - I wrote a whole paragraph not answering a single question, rather presenting 3 more than we originally had.
Posted: 2:36 pm on July 6th

pumpernickel pumpernickel writes: First of all I am a patent lawyer and I don't do product liability litigation and my exposure to this side of the law dates back to law school, so I am sure the following may be laden with errors. BillVan brings up an interesting hypothetical regarding laser guided cruise control: is it forseeable that someone with the cruise control on will back into another car on the road? - I think w/o a doubt the answer is yes. Is it Ford's duty to protect Bill from doing so with the laser guided cruise control? I don't know, probably for a jury to decide. But what if Toyota has the patent on the laser cruise control and absolutely will not license the technology to others so as to maintain a competitive advantage? Not much Ford can do then b/c no one can make Toyota license a patent to its competitor (sort of). I wonder how different this case would have turned out if Saw Stop wanted to be its own manufacturer from the get go refusing to share its technology. Perhaps the terms of the licensing agreement were so egregious that no one was able to enter into a licensing agreement, which would be tantamount to refusing to license to anyone. As with all legal questions, the devil is in the details of each case.

Spoken like a true attorney - I wrote a whole paragraph not answering a single question, rather presenting 3 more than we originally had.
Posted: 2:36 pm on July 6th

jef12s jef12s writes: It's a little ironic that there is 5 advertisements for lawyers and injury claim representation on this page. Nothing like advertising at the source!
Posted: 2:15 pm on July 6th

jef12s jef12s writes: It's a little ironic that there are 5 advertisements for injury claim representation and lawyers on this page. May as well advertise at the source.
Posted: 2:12 pm on July 6th

Ruffnek Ruffnek writes: There is no mystery to me about how a jury could have awarded Osorio $1.5 million dollars. In case you have been living under a rock for the past 40 years, the judgement is simply a reflection of where we in the USA are as a society.

No one is responsible for their own actions, it's always someone else's fault.

If you screw up and hurt yourself, don't worry, there are plenty of ambulance chasers willing to file suit in your behalf and plenty of imbecelic jurors willing to re-distribute the wealth.

In my opinion, Osorio is a candidate for the Darwin award. Even with no experience operating power tools, only an idiot would use a tablesaw with no guard, no splitter and no fence. Only a bigger idiot would keep pushing on the stock when something was obviously wrong.

This suit (and the ones surely to follow), the sleazy lawyers who make their living off such suits and the ignorant jurors who made a decision based on emotion instead of fact make me sad for the present state and especially the future of this once great country.


Posted: 2:02 pm on July 6th

DaveWoodworker DaveWoodworker writes: My initial reaction was much like others - what was the jury thinking? An individual or company (which is treated like an individual) needs to take responsibility for their actions. In this case, the employer was negligent in not properly training Mr. Osorio and by not mandating guard usage. Since TTI has much deeper pockets than the employer, I can see why the lawyers went after them.

On the other hand. I would really like Saw Stop technology on my tablesaw, but don't want to spend $2000 on a saw at this early phase of my hobby. I paid $450 for a saw that I like very much (Ridgid R4511 - another TTI product) and would definitely have been willing to pay another $200 to get the Saw Stop technology on this machine. I don't know the details of why the Ryobi negotiations fell apart, but I would urge all manufacturers to license this technology.

Why did it take so long for riving knifes to come to the USA?
Posted: 1:51 pm on July 6th

KASAGuitar KASAGuitar writes: I hope Ryobi wins this on appeal.
And what was the deal with "he can't perform his occupation as a computer geek of some kind". He was a floor installer.
Do we have to have a warning for everything in life. If the saw had a sticker that said "don't stick your body parts in the spinning blade" and the sticker wore off, would the tool maker be responsible? He could have used a more permanant sticker.

I got a splinter from an exotic species of wood, is there a lawyer out there that will take my case? We must be able to sue the grower, or the saw mill or someone. Email me if you want to take my case to court, I could use an extra million or two. And that splinter really hurt and I am suffering from depression from it.
Posted: 1:37 pm on July 6th

RussQ RussQ writes: Oh, putting a hot cup of coffee between your legs is a good idea? Kind of like texting while driving. Again, personal responsibility?!
Posted: 8:36 am on July 6th

RussQ RussQ writes: I have two questions and one statement for the juries on cases like this and other related bad awards:

1. Personal responsibility-I am responsible for my actions, why aren't others?

2. Where is the right and wrong?

You cannot protect an idiot from himself, he's too creative!
Posted: 8:32 am on July 6th

saschafer saschafer writes:
@bobwoodman: As long as juries are willing to succumb to emotional arguments and award large sums to plaintiffs with insubstantial cases, people will file lawsuits as often as they think they have a chance of winning. It's a basic principle of most human societies: If there's money to be made, someone will try to game the system to get more than their fair share.

@Leejames1953: While I agree that the judgment in this case was wrong, the McDonald's case has been widely misrepresented, and is, in my opinion, not at all comparable. In particular, McDonald's held their coffee at much higher temperatures than the industry norm, the plaintiff was NOT driving the car, and the car was NOT moving at the time of the accident.

See: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm

-Steve

Posted: 3:19 pm on July 4th

Leejames1953 Leejames1953 writes: After working for a large insurance company for 30 years and being a claims manager for 9 of those years, it comes as no surprise that a jury of one’s “peers” could render such a horrendous award. I have also sat on a few juries, and the plaintiff’s individual responsibilities for causing an accident never came into question. Plaintiff attorneys do a great job of ignoring facts and soliciting the sympathies of a clueless jury.

Ryobi’s responsibilities should have ended when the employer removed the safety mechanisms from the product. As with most accidents of this type, improper training and supervision by the employer, and the removal of the safety features in place were the proximate cause of this accident; not the lack of the saw stop safety feature.

This goes right up there with someone putting hot coffee between there legs while driving in the car and when they get scalded they are awarded a million dollar verdict. Forget the plaintiff’s responsibility to be careful with a container that says “caution hot coffee”

Posted: 2:24 pm on July 4th

bobwoodman bobwoodman writes: I am troubled by the fact that our country has gotten to the point that litigation drives everything. On the other hand, a technology, like sawstop was made available and offered to the saw manufacturers who all declined to license it. I would surmise that there were a number of reasons, some of which were probably driven by a desire to minimize litigation opportunities for injured parties. If the saw companies licensed the technology on some but not all machines, or offerred it as an option, there would be an even stronger case to present to juries. Then there is the government regulation side of things. In general, since Sawstop has been successful, we are now in a world where corporate and academic institutions have the ability to purchase sawstop and individuals also have a choice. I don't think we should regulate everything but I would think that any corporate or educational facility would make a better economic decision in purchasing saw stop technology. As for individuals, If a person has insurance, and chooses not to purchase sawstop, that should remain his decision. Care and caution should always be observed irrespective of technology. In the current market, although I am not in favor of mass regulation, we may be in a situation where it is needed to provide the other manufacturers with a legal out so that they can "offer sawstop type technology" on some of their product line but not all and not all the time.

It is analogous, I believe, to the cell phone manufacturers not using plastic in the cases which blocks radiation because they are afraid that this will provide lawyers with evidence that manufacturers believe or are aware of the fact that radiation from cell phones is dangerous. They need to stick to the party line which is that the radiation causes no ill effects. If this means they cannot take a chance and offer radiation proof plastic just in case they are wrong, then they will not offer it.


Posted: 8:32 pm on July 3rd

BillVan BillVan writes: My question is for all the lawyers out there.
I have a 2007 Toyota Avalon which has a laser guided cruise control which prevents me from tailgating by slowing the car down when I get too close to the vehicle in front. If the closing rate is too fast it applies the brakes and sounds a warning beep. I also have a 2010 Ford Edge which has a cruise control but not with the laser assist feature. Question: if I rear end another vehicle with the Ford can I sue Ford for negligence for not having three year old technology? All lawyers please post a response.
Bill Van
Posted: 10:03 am on July 3rd

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