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I am a lawyer with many years of experience defending products liability cases. In a former life, I was also an electrical engineer.
Without knowing all the facts, it is difficult to make any specific comment on the Boston case. But since that sort of thing has never stopped me in the past from giving an opinion, I offer the following:
The article seems to lead to one inescapable conclusion; namely the jury in the Boston case had its head someplace dark and smelly. Manufacturers and sellers of products are generally held to the standard that they are liable for injuries caused by "defective and unreasonably dangerous" products. Fault is not an issue. Whether a product meets this test is usually determined by answering this question: "Does the product pose a danger that is beyond the contemplation of the reasonable user or consumer?" How anyone can say he or she did not understand that a 10" saw blade, with 40 or more sharp teeth, spinning at 3200 rpm and capable of cutting oak flooring might cause serious damage to a human hand escapes me. The jury just saw an injured guy and a rich company and decided to engage in a little wealth redistribution.
Product development is a process characterized by compromises that are made to meet price and performance criteria. The fact that the plaintiff was using a Ryobi saw means that he was not interested in buying premium equipment. (This is not a knock on Ryobi. The company has a business model that is different that Bosch or Festool.) I suspect that the plaintiff would never pay the premium price that would have been required to purchase a Saw Stop contractor's saw.
When I was involved in designing electrical equipment, we had a saying. You can make products fool proof, but you cannot make that damn fool proof. The plaintiff wanted a product that was damn fool proof, but he did not want to pay for it. As a result, you and I will eventually pay for this verdict through higher prices for the tools we buy.
Ryobi should appeal.
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