Table Saw Injury Lawsuit

Table Saw Blade ChangeThere has been copious amounts of virtual ink (and probably more than a little actual ink) used to discuss the recent settlement awarding $1.5 million to a Massachusetts woodworker who injured his fingers using a table saw.

I’m left thinking that Chris Marshall’s post, A Darker Side to Loaning Tools, was eerily prescient considering it was written almost three months before the court decision was rendered, and (as far as I know) completely unaware of the lawsuit.  It almost begs the question, does this decision mean that there’s a darker side to SELLING tools?

So what do you think? Was this decision a good one for woodworking? Was justice done?  Bad decision? Good decision?  And more importantly, where could this decision lead us?

Rob Johnstone
Editor in Chief

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About Rob Johnstone

Rob Johnstone has been part of Woodworker's Journal's since 1997, becoming editor of the print magazine in 1998 and editor in chief in 2007. He began woodworking at age 13 in his family-owned cabinet shop and, as an adult, trained to become an accomplished luthier. He eventually opened his own cabinetry and custom fine woodworking business. Rob has brought many of the most well-known authors in woodworking to the Journal's pages and introduced Woodworker's Journal Online Survey. When, in his free time, Rob isn't woodworking, he enjoys hunting for sharp-tailed grouse with his bird dog, playing music and/or listening to his son's rock band and cooking on his high-tech stove.

39 thoughts on “Table Saw Injury Lawsuit

  1. Terrible decision. Not just for woodworking, but as a sign of our society. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

  2. This is typical of our thinking today, no one wants to be responsible for their actions. They also feel they can get some easy money. Paul

  3. A friend of mine loaned a chain saw to a fellow that he knew. He insisted that he also borrow his chaps as well. The guy who borrowed the chain saw brought it back and said he would pay for the chaps because they got cut up. My friend said that the guy had no clue how the chaps probably saved his life or at least kept him from severe damage. If you don’t know how to use a tool, don’t!
    As a foot note, I was a firefighter for 30 years and we had a saying; “Stupid people keep us in work.”

  4. Where has common sense gone to?

    Live the Norm Abram way: Read and Understand the directions to your tools…..!!

  5. We should give intelligence test to people who buy power tools. Stupid suits like this run up costs and make things harder on everyone. The mfg should have counter sued for the woodworker being a dummerhundt. As a practice I never lend tools because of the potential damage or loss to the tool. Never thought about the liability issue.
    I just bought this here brand new power saw and cut my fingers right off. Here’s your sign.

  6. Ridiculous…
    There is automotive technology now available that will keep you in your lane and brake for you…So if I’m using my cell phone while driving and get distracted and swerrve into or rear end some innocent party I now have legal precedence to sue my automaker for not making this technology available to me???
    Is there no culpability on the part of all the DIY ‘Remodel This/Flip That’ shows that tout the ‘anyone can do it’ philosophy????
    OOOOooooommmmmmmm………..

  7. Rob
    I have served on juries and it is an interesting process. Only the jury has the complete facts of this case and the charge by the judge of the laws involved. The manufacturer could be liable by refusing to fix a dangerous condition. Lawyers also make points in arguments that are not bourne out by the facts. This could well be the origin of the “Why no Sawstop?” rationale. I am not so quick to judge these cases without the complete facts. On its face it seems to be overkill. I am sure there are two sides to the story. In my state they passed a tort reform so that people can only get $250,000 in damages for pain and suffering. This is true even if a Dr. cuts off the (good) wrong arm or leg. I think we should depend upon the judges and juries to do what is right. Lets all be careful and not need anyone to decide our losses.

  8. COMMOM Sense! And the fact that folks are not raised around tools like some.
    Today most school do not even offer Shop Classes. I teach a few woodworking classes in my community a lot of the students age 20 – 40 think because they
    read about it on the net they can handle any power tool. Maybe we need a class
    like hunters safety before you can buy, rent, or borrow a tool. Oh yea! How will this effect the rental off tools?

    “Stupid is as stupid

  9. There’s an old Texas saying ” Ya just can’t fix stupid” but 1.5 mil might help

  10. I personally don’t think that he should get a cent! If he knew about the Sawstop system and used this other saw that wasn’t equipped that way he should not have used it, especially if he thought that it wasn’t safe.
    I think that it’s a bad decision that could lead to most of us with woodworking shops having to go out to purchase more homeowners insurance to protect the idiots that shouldn’t be touching the tools.I also don’t let other people use my tools unless I know that they know what they are doing,and then I still keep a very close eye on them and never seem to accomplish much on my own project. I’d rather help them get their project done so that I can relax and not worry about them hurting themselves with my tool,on my property.
    Len

  11. to many people are looking for the easy way and don’t bother to read the book
    till it’s to late !
    the best rule is read first then read it again till you get the right idea how to
    use the tool ?
    That would asume you can understand the words you read ?
    the court system needs a better way of going about this kind of award thing,
    if they used old fasioned horse sence thins and people might be a lot better??
    George

  12. If there was an inherent design defect that caused the accident I can understand the award. But if it was ignorance or negligence then the responsibility should not be the manufacturers. If you remove a guard and get injured – the fault is only yours. What we need is not limits on settlements rather to limit what a lawyer can make on a claim and make the lawyers financially responsible for costs incurred by the manufacturer if the case fails.

  13. The guy would probably argue that if he had a Saw Stop, he didn’t use it because it was to heavy for him to move around; the Ryobi was lighter and that the Saw Stop manufacturer didn’t make the tablesaw light enough. Either way, the guy was going to sue somebody for his negligence. It just makes more of the responsible users to shell out more money for power tools because the manufacturers will add on to the cost to recoup the loss of the lawsuit, and teach everyone how not to take responsibility for themselves or their actions.

  14. I am afraid that this is the code of the “Ambulance Chaser” something that has crossed the ocean in the last few years. Now here in the UK we have our own home grown “Shysters” and even the illiterate know the word Litlgation and can even spell it. A few years ago the word “Sue” was the pretty English Rose that lived down the street.
    Re: he guy who lost his fingers on his saw, it is frightening to know that they are out there and they are even allowed to breed.
    regards to you all and in retrospect may I apologise for all that tea that went into your Boston harbour.

  15. I blame the court system.
    They should not allow these lawsuits to waste taxpayers money.

  16. How about this…. Remember the MacDonald’s scam, the coffee was to hot? Did you ever think that this was set up by MacDonalds on purpose! Think about it.. it is many years later and everyone still knows MacDonalds has hot coffee! Think of the costs involved.. pay the lawsuit ($1M) or do a major advertising campaign.. (many millions)
    Certainly the lawsuit was a whole lot less expensive and it is still working!!!
    Is this the same scenario? The facts as I have heard them are beyond comprehension, perhaps there is something else going on.

  17. I had a terrible accident this past weekend. I cut my index finger off, severed the extensor tendons on digits 3,4, and 5. I additionally cut halfway through those fingers before I pulled my hand back. I am in an amazing amount of pain. It courses through my han down to my elbow ans shoots out of the stubbs remaining on my hand. I have used tools all my life, I grew up helping my dad work in his shop and have continued woodworking and home renovation in my adult life. I am not a novice and would say that i used my table saw 5 times a week. Now don’t get me wrong. I’d take the money. my life will forever be changed. I possibly will never do the things I love again like draw a picture, ride my bike or paddle my kayak. I screwed up though. I made the mistake and should have sprung for the saw stop model. I’m glad I made it up from my garage to tell my wife I hurt myself before I went into shock so I have a life. Lossing part of my hand seems insignifant ccompared to my life and the thought of my kids growing up without a father is far worse. I’m not planning to sue anybody. I’m planning on getting on with my life a working to restore as much funcn. to my hand as possible. It sucks right now. please be careful.

  18. I also disabled my left hand on my tablesaw this past August and I confirm that it is a painful and depressing injury. The first thing I had to do was assign blame which as you can imagine was all mine. I was tired, burned out at my regular job and not focused. And I’ve been woodworking for 45 years and I will be damned if I will Give it up. The first trip back to the saw was terrifying but that feeling will only keep me safer, causing me to think about the operation I’m about to perform. I hope that nervous feeling never goes away. As far as suing the manufacture, if the saw starts and the blade cuts its doing what it’s supposed to. We just need to STOP, THINK AND REACT everytime we use a power tool!! Having said that, the media could help stem these injuries by promoting safe practices when using power tools. For example,almost every home improvement, remodeling and DIY program show tablesaws being used with no blade guard, citing purpose of clarifying. What’s to clarify? If a injury is a possibility then there’s a safer way. STOP, THINK AND REACT

  19. Hi

    This is again a proof of how sick the system is in USA! This is where your money is going to in the health system – only lawsuit is making a lot of money. Insurence is higher for all of you – who is making more money?? Yes, the Insurance company with a director with more then a $100 million in salery.
    Read about all who is not that clever as this guy – making 1.5 million just for his finger. I got nothing for mine but I got FREE health care as Norway have the best healthcare in the world. No one is complaining about that! No lawsuite either. And the system is keeping the cost down.

    Steinar

  20. You wonder if someday in a case like this “a jury of your peers” would mean 12 fellow woodworkers…judging by the comments here, my guess is this fellow would end up with nothing except a lesson in proper tool use and some advice to buy the Saw Stop next time!

  21. I think the lawyers should have to pay the 1.5 mil and then pour gas and a match on the lawyers.

  22. I’ve been following this fiasco on woodworking blogs and I still have one question. Why have so many of us been calling this guy a WOODWORKER? He is not nor was he ever a woodworker. He was someone that a flooring co. hired with no experience or expertise for cheap to do a job that should have been done by an experienced person. Therefore makeing it possible for the Co. to under bid all the other experienced tradesmen. I could be wrong after all I only started with my father in the flooring trade at about 16 and spent 50 years at it.

  23. Why can people have no responsibility for what they do these days.
    I have been unfortunate but mostly foolish having injuring myself not once but twice with my tablesaw. Luckily I have rcovered with fully functional digits. Not once have I ever thought of suing the saw manufacturer. I healed and went back to work within 6 weeks, a little leary for a while.
    Here is the kicker. I am already an amputee (missing my left arm) Love wood working and have no intentions of stopping.
    REMEMBER they make push sticks for a reason.

  24. Pingback: “Aligning Crosscuts Precisely and Easily”

  25. I cut 4 fingers on my left hand, on my table saw. A friend did the same thing a week later on his plainer. Both of us thought the same thing, “Boy was that stupid”. We are both still woodworking. I can count to 9 7/8 and he can count to 9. When we look back to what happened, we both say “Boy was that stupid”.

  26. A woman rushes her husband to the hospital with his missing fingers in a ice bag. After hours of surgery trying to put him back together and recovery. The doctor comes into the mans room. Sir we are letting you go home. we did the best we could. The doctor hands the man a paper. This is for pain. The doctor then hands the wife another paper. She reads it ” THIS MAN SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO USE POWER TOOLS AGAIN’

    I live in Missouri where they have a common sense law. If you trip because of a hole in a parking lot and break your arm you cannot sue because you should of seen the hole.

    Common sense tells you be careful around tools, common sense tells you the coffee is hot don’t spill it on yourself.

  27. Hey donald S. i live in misssouri i lost three fingers on a table saw on 4-15-10, becuase it didn’t have any saftey stuff on it. you try living wit two fingers and one hand, and see how that commen sense that you talk about works out.
    oh and my wedding ring git caught beacuse there was no guard.

  28. This is sad. Wrong tool for the job. Probably no training. Why should we suffer for this. The only one that won were the lawyers

  29. It stinks, but for more reasons than it’s an award for ignorance. When I factor in cost of lawyers, court costs, taxes (state and fed) and medical costs I get an estimate that he got about $200k. Still nice , but it points out that there are a lot of other hands in that pot.

  30. I totally agree with Vince F- “Boy was that stupid”-

    My husband he cut his hand on a table saw. His company did not have the fancy “flesh sensor” table saws, just the normal ones everyone else uses. He kicks himself daily for not having COMPLETE focus for that one second when the accident happened!

    I can not begin to tell everyone of you here how many times he has said to me, during the course of his recovery, “I know exactly what I did wrong, I know how I could have prevented my injury and I know what I will do next time to prevent this ever again.”

    No doubt, it was both a long and frustrating road to recovery, but hey- 9 and 1/2 fingers is workable and it could have been far, far worse!

  31. I haven’t cut myself on my table saw, yet, but I did on my first 10″ bandsaw. I learned early and quite well on that one. Wood slipped, cut finger tip (probably to the bone). No, I didn’t go to the Dr. I just held firm pressure on it, then cleaned it out under running water and bandaged it very tightly. Then when it started to heal I soaked it in betadine & hydrogen pyroxide. I don’t have any feeling in that finger tip to say the least. I learned a hard lesson that day. One slip and your not fast enough. I make sure I unplug my power tools, every time! I stand either to the left or right of the two miter slots on my table saw when making a cut on it and I use push stick, feather boards, etc. They are replaceable, my fingers aren’t. Having served 23 yrs in the Navy I am well aware that safety is paramount. There one slip and it could very well cost you your life. It’s too bad there isn’t any personal responsibility anymore.

  32. Two things: First about the band saw-The is the tool meat cutters use and it works very well for that and could care less what kink of meat it cuts. Secondly, about 20 years ago I was “free hand” cutting the end of a nail box on my table saw. The blade caught and snatched the piece of wood out of my hand and sent it flying across the shop. After my heart started beating again, I went and looked for the wood. It had a nasty “extra” cut in it and tooth marks across the entire width. I was stupid for not respecting the saw and it’s power and it’s indifference to my health and well being. I finished the nail box using that piece of chewed up wood to remind me who was boss and to be able to use it as a teaching tool when someone asked about it. No blood, no tears: and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Remember, the tool feels no pain and could care less if your are using it right or not. It will do what it does best-CUT anything that contacts the blade. Oh yea, my hammer doesn’t care about my fingers either.

  33. When I was 15 in school,I took a wood shop class.I nearly cut off my finger cutting a small piece of wood.Of course the instructor saw what happened and threw a fit.You can put all kinds of safety devices on a saw.But they wont help “dumb”.Anyone needs to learn how to operate a saw safely.And to not get distracted while working with an electric saw.

  34. This is another indication of what is wrong with some people today. An easy way to get quick money. How is it we allow these things to continue to happen. It is a sad accident, but no fault of the saw, manufacture, or anyone else except the guy who made the mistake. Now we all get to pay for one persons mistake. One has to ask why we have to pay for other people lack of responsibility to learn how to use tools properly and safely.

  35. I also cut my fingers on table saw. Accidents happen. It’s nothing to do with how good you are or inexperienced. Because I have long history with wood-working, but accidents happen. I ended up loosing my index & feeling/movement in the others

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