Illinois Jury Verdict for Saw Manufacturer in Product Defect Case

A Chicago jury has decided in favor of table saw manufacturer Ryobi Tools in a case filed by a plaintiff who claimed he was injured by a defective saw.

The plaintiff, Brandon Stollings, was a carpenter who purchased a Ryobi BTS 20R1 in May 2007, a few days before the accident. He claimed in the suit that the saw was defective because it did not include a SawStop sensing device or a European style riving knife.

SawStop inventor Stephen Gass served as an expert witness and testified during the two-day trial. Gass created the sensing device, which causes a saw to “brake” if it detects flesh rather than wood. Gass has petitioned the federal Consumer Protection Safety Commission to require SawStop technology on all new table saws. His petition is still pending before the federal commission.

In the Chicago case, the plaintiff’s left hand came into contact with the table saw. He sustained a complete amputation of his left index finger, near-complete amputation of his middle finger, amputation of the tip of his thumb and a lacerated ring finger. His medical bills totaled $79,317.

The carpenter’s complaint contended that the saw was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous. Stollings also testified that he was an experienced carpenter who admitted at his deposition that he had not read the warnings in the table saw safety manual. He also admitted he understood the risks of removing the blade guard and cutting freehand. As an expert witness, Gass testified that the SawStop safety equipment should be installed on all table saws manufactured after 2004.

The manufacturer argued that the saw was not defective and the cause of Stollings’s accident was his choosing not to read the safety manual, choosing not to use the blade guard, and failure to use the miter gauge when crosscutting a piece of laminate flooring “freehand.” The defense attorneys also argued that the Ryobi table saw complied with Underwriters Laboratory 987 and other standards such as those from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The jury in the Chicago case decided unanimously that the table saw was not negligently designed or unreasonably dangerous. In coming to this verdict after two days of deliberations, they did not address the question of the plaintiff’s conduct.

Additional lawsuits have been filed across the country with similar allegations, including a 2010 case decided in Boston in which the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, awarding over $1 million in damages.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling product liability cases and work injury matters for Chicago, Cook County and Illinois individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Round Lake Beach, Beach Park, Highwood, Fox River Grove, Mount Prospect, Carol Stream, Wheaton, Batavia, Chicago’s Logan Square, and South Elgin, Illinois.

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