Nail gun discharges into carpenter's head

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Case in Point

September 11, 2012

Nail gun discharges into carpenter's head 

The plaintiff sued the nail gun’s manufacturer, alleging that the tool was defectively designed in that it lacked a sequential trip mechanism, which would have prevented it from firing unless the trigger was pulled after the gun’s nose contacted a surface. Oliver v. Hitachi Koki U.S.A., Ltd.

Martin Oliver, a journeyman carpenter, was using a Hitachi NR83A nail gun when the gun discharged a nail into his head. The nail penetrated Oliver’s brain, causing permanent, disabling injuries.

Oliver sued the nail gun’s manufacturer, alleging that the tool was defectively designed in that it had a contact trip mechanism, which permitted a nail to be fired whenever the nose of the gun contacted a surface and the trigger was pulled—regardless of the order in which those events occurred. The plaintiff contended that the gun should have had a sequential trip mechanism, which would have prevented it from firing unless the trigger was pulled after the gun’s nose contacted a surface. Suit alleged that although Hitachi was aware that the contact trip mechanism could cause inadvertent firing and that a nail could rebound violently, it failed to address the risk.

The jury found that the nail gun was defectively designed and awarded about $2 million, including $1 million for pain and suffering and about $1 million in economic damages. The addition of costs and interest will raise the plaintiff’s recovery to more than $2.5 million.

There is a net workers’ compensation lien of about $100,000.

Citation: Oliver v. Hitachi Koki U.S.A., Ltd., No. CIVSS710812 (Cal., San Bernardino Co. Super. Apr. 17, 2012).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Roger L. Gordon and Vincent Vallin Bennett, both of Los Angeles.


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