Absolved by jury - Woodshop News

Absolved by jury

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Last month I talked of a landmark decision awarding $1.5 million to a man severely injured on a Ryobi table saw. The jury determined that the accident was Ryobi’s fault, not his. I’ve since had a chance to learn more about the incident.

From transcripts posted online, we get a clearer picture of what happened, and as I see it, 11 things clearly led to the accident:

1. He had never used the saw before, and had no experience or training on it.

2. He operated the table saw on the floor, kneeling as he used it.

3. His employer didn’t provide, and he wasn’t using, a guard.

4. Although he saw safety warnings on the saw, he testified that he didn't bother to read them.

5. His employer did not provide, and he never read, the saw manual.

6. He was making a free-hand rip cut without a fence.

7. He was not using a push stick of any kind.

8. He was making a tapered cut in the board free-hand.

9. He also – for reasons not explained – had the blade tilted slightly.

10. He had the blade raised to its full height, although the board was only 3/4" thick.

11. While cutting, the board jammed and vibrated, so with his hand in line with the blade he pushed the board as hard as he could, resulting in his hand going right into the blade.

Whew! Any one of those is sufficient for disaster, and this man did all 11 in a single cut. It would’ve been a miracle if an accident had NOT occurred. And yet, the jury determined that the cause of the accident was only 35% his fault, and 65% Ryobi’s. (His employer wasn’t blamed.)

The jury further determined that the Ryobi saw was defective. Defective how? Well, Ryobi didn’t include a SawStop-like device, which made the saw defective and thus “…breach[ed] the implied warranty of merchantability by selling a product … that was defectively designed.” This last line, quoted directly from the jury verdict, is important. I’ll explain why in a second.

To say the victim was only 35% at fault is ridiculous; as the end user that figure should be closer to 100%. I say closer because it’s clear his employer was at least a bit negligent by not providing a guard with the saw, not requiring employees to use one, and not even providing training on it.

However, all of that is moot. Why? Because once the jury found Ryobi at fault for marketing what they determined to be a “defective” saw, all culpability on the part of the victim is instantly erased. Bottom line, Ryobi was 100% to blame. I can sum that up in one word, although it’s not the word I’d prefer to use:

Baloney.

Till next time,

A.J.

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