Mark Wickman, a 27-year-old carpenter, was using a Makita Model 2704 10-inch portable table saw to cut trim for the roofline of a home under construction. Wickman’s coworker held a 16-foot length of fiberboard on one end to prevent it from moving as Wickman cut it. As he was about 14 feet into the cut, the board bowed up above the blade, and his hand came down and was pushed into the blade.
Wickman suffered severe injuries to the middle finger on his right, dominant hand. He underwent multiple surgeries and ultimately required partial amputation of the finger. His past medical expenses exceeded $100,000. He continues to suffer pain, and he will require another procedure to correct thoracic outlet syndrome—a condition involving pain in the neck and shoulder, numbness and tingling in the fingers, and a weak grip.
At the time of the incident, Wickman was earning about $36,600. He will be unable to return to carpentry—his only job-related skill—and will not likely earn more than $15,000 annually. His past and future lost earnings are estimated at more than $700,000.
Wickman sued the saw’s manufacturer and its parent companies, asserting negligence and breach-of-warranty claims. The plaintiff contended that the saw lacked safety technology that was readily available when it was manufactured in 2006, including (1) a SawStop flesh-detection device that can stop and drop a blade within two to three milliseconds of detecting flesh and (2) a riving knife—an inexpensive device that prevents kickback.
Wickman also alleged that the saw’s blade guard was unwieldy, had to be removed for certain cuts, and was difficult to reattach. As a result, he asserted, users frequently assembled the saw without the guard or removed it and failed to reattach it, and the defendants were aware of this practice. The plaintiff was prepared to show that there was no guard on the saw he was using.
The parties settled for $220,000. The workers’ compensation carrier agreed to reduce its gross lien of about $238,100 to $110,000.
Citation: Wickman v. Makita U.S.A., Inc., No. 1:09-cv-10890 (D. Mass. Aug. 24, 2012).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Richard J. Sullivan and Ernest J. Palazzolo Jr., both of Wellesley, Mass.; and George F. Carpinello and Teresa A. Monroe, both of Albany, N.Y.