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Final thoughts before moving on

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The reaction to the recent $1.5 million saw-injury lawsuit has been tremendous, both here and on other online outlets. Time to move on.

Judging from the unbridled outrage from the woodworking community, both here and on other forums, opposition to the decision is nearly unanimous. That’s very telling, and I expect we’ll hear more about it once an appeal begins. So I have a final thought before letting my own furor die down for now, and in the process I want to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

We’ve not pulled any punches in our opinions of the victim in this case, and sometimes our descriptions of him have been, even if accurate, on the cruel side. Those who know me well know that the word “knucklehead” slips very easily off my tongue, and I admit I may have used it more than once in discussing this case directly with other woodworkers.

I still maintain that Ryobi was not at fault, and I still maintain that the man’s negligent employer shares part of the blame. But the bulk of the cause of the accident rests squarely on the victim; on that, my opinion is unshakeable. However, does he deserve to be called a knucklehead? Maybe. Maybe not.

The guy has a degree in computer programming. He had never done woodworking in his life and knew nothing about it. He took the flooring job because it was all he could find. He had been on the job only a very short time before the accident. Before getting that job he’d never even touched a table saw.

If a 10-year-old had performed the same actions on that Ryobi saw and suffered the same accident, we wouldn’t call him stupid. We’d realize that he just didn’t know any better. Wouldn’t change the cause – his actions still caused the accident, not Ryobi – but we probably wouldn’t savage the poor kid the way we’re doing the adult victim. If the 10-year-old had been awarded the $1.5 million we’d still be outraged, but our ire, I suspect, would be directed elsewhere: the legal system, his employer, the jury, the lawyers, the state of Massachusetts, even SawStop if you want. We’d still hate the decision and the subsequent shifting of guilt to a guiltless party, but we wouldn’t blame the kid for that.

We can still blame the adult for the actions that caused the accident; the record is clear on what actions he performed. Not entirely sure we can blame him for everything that’s happened in the aftermath.

Till next time,


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