The plaintiff in a products liability action involving a table saw recently settled his claims for $2 million. In Mai v. Ryobi Technologies, C.P. Philadelphia No. 140303388, the plaintiff injured several fingers while using a table saw to cut through a piece of wood in a hardwood floor installation project.
While working on the installation project, the plaintiff alleged that the wood contacted the back end of the spinning table saw blade, which resulted in the blade being pushed back into the plaintiff’s hand, resulting in right middle finger amputation, nerve damage and disfigurement to his other fingers. The plaintiff claimed that these injuries caused lost earning capacity as well as pain and suffering damages.
The plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the saw as well as the person who owned the saw. He alleged that the owner of the saw directed the plaintiff to cut a length a wood flooring despite the plaintiff’s inexperience in using table saws. He also pursued a products liability claim against the manufacturer, alleging that the guard of the saw had been defectively designed.
The plaintiff, despite acknowledging that a guard was installed on the guard, and had been taken off the saw before he used it, asserted that the guard was defectively designed because the manufacturer knew that customers had frequently been removing the guard. Additionally, the plaintiff contended that the manufacturer should have used an alternative technology that could have stopped the blade more quickly. The plaintiff’s claims included negligence and failure-to-warn, and he pursued both a risk utility theory as well as a consumer expectation theory of products liability throughout the course of the litigation.
In its defense, the manufacturer argued that the plaintiff’s use of the saw with the knowledge that the safety guard had been removed constituted misuse and assumption of risk. Additionally, the manufacturer argued that the saw, as designed, satisfied national safety standards, and that the plaintiff had successfully gained employment UPS after the accident. Furthermore, the owner of the saw indicated that he told the plaintiff to stay away from the saw on the date of the accident.
Despite the relatively robust defense evidence against the plaintiff’s claims, the plaintiff still collected a $2 million settlement for his injuries. The plaintiff’s simultaneous pleading of both the risk utility theory as well as the consumer expectation theory of negligence further demonstrates the continuing evolution of products liability litigation in Pennsylvania following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2014 decision Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. For further thoughts and analysis on the effects of Tincher, please click here. Thanks to Greg Herrold for his contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.