Ryobi Wins Table Saw Safety Litigation

We’ve previously brought you other news of pending table saw legislation; in recent news, a Chicago jury decided earlier this month in favor of table saw manufacturer Ryobi Tools, against a plaintiff who claimed he was injured by a defective saw.

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

In many of these cases, SawStop inventor Stephen Gass, who created the sensing device that causes a saw to “brake” if it detects flesh rather than wood, has served as an expert witness. Stephen Gass’s petition to the federal Consumer Protection Safety Commission to require SawStop technology on all new table saws manufactured is still pending before that federal commission.

In the Ryobi case, the manufacturer contended that the cause of Stollings’s accident, which resulted in multiple amputations of fingers on his left hand, was his failure to read the manual, failure to use the blade guard, and failure to use the miter gauge when crosscutting a piece of laminate flooring “freehand,” when a kickback occurred.

The jury in the Chicago case ruled unanimously that the Ryobi table saw, which complied with Underwriters Laboratory 987 and other standards such as those from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was not negligently designed or unreasonably dangerous. In making this ruling after two days of deliberations, they did not address the question of the plaintiff’s conduct.

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About Joanna Takes

Joanna Werch Takes has been at Woodworker's Journal since 1998. Her work includes writing and editing for many print magazine departments, among them the "Stumpers" mystery tool department. Joanna is also a frequent contributor to the Woodworker's Journal eZine. Joanna's previous experience includes work as a newspaper reporter. Her woodworking has consisted of small projects such as toys and a storage box. She is active in the Women of Today service organization.

13 thoughts on “Ryobi Wins Table Saw Safety Litigation

  1. I taught shop classes for over 30 years and always told my students that a machine is an inanimate object and you are smarter than the machine but someone always tries to prove me wrong. Remember it is just a machine and used correctly it is safe to use!

  2. Safety ! Requires mental alertness each time a cut is made. Not always easy to achieve when one is rushing or thinking of the next process in a project. There are lots of products to help provide safety when using a saw without a saw-stop or riving knife ….just use them and do not take short cuts to accomplish a task that requires standard safety measures.

  3. I read the comments on lending tools. I never lend tools but, if it is someone in the family I either go there and do for them or have them bring it to my shop and again I do it. What is the thought about giving someone a tool to keep because I bought a new replacement? I have an old miter saw and want to give it to my brother-in-law with the owners manual. He is new to tools in general but wants to do some remodeling on his home. What, if any, liability would have. I would appreciate any feedback.

    Tony Licata

  4. Thank God for this ruling. Enough is enough. Stupid can’t be fixed. Be safe in the workshop and on the job. Ask your self is this safe’ what can happen if I do this. If it’s not safe find another way to do it.

  5. I hope that no law or case mandating Saw Stop takes effect until after it’s Patent expires.

  6. Sure sounds like he planned the law suite from the start. Even the most experienced wood worker can get injured but I think the judge saw through his plan. Or didn’t feel sorry for his lack of safety practices.

  7. The guy in Boston should have been put in jail for blaming others for his stupidity. That goes with suing for his stupidity.

  8. You want to cure stupidity? Remove the warning labels. Do it quick because these idiots are breeding!

  9. Forget about liability or responsibility. For an extra $55 on a miter saw, I’d just as soon be protected from my own possible… momentary lapse. I think I read that’s what it would cost if the big companies decided to install the SawStop product on their tabletop saws.

  10. One problem with the SawStop is the cost of the “safety mechanism” being activated. That instant stop comes at a price. Each time it slams to a halt your wallet does a dump. The saw becomes unusable until expensive parts are replaced — you’d never, ever want to demonstrate it with a hot dog — unless you have unlimited time and money!
    Sure it can save you, but it can also cost you — and SawStop makes a nice little profit each time you do. Just sayin’….

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