Defective nail gun fired nail into head, plaintiff argued
|Design Defect, Products Liability - Failure to Warn, Products Liability - Power Tools, Construction - Accidents|
|Martin Oliver v. Hitachi Koki USA Ltd., Precision Parts, Inc. and Archuleta Enterprises Inc., No. CIVSS710812|
|Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA|
|John M. Pacheco
- Vincent F. Bennett; Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP; Los Angeles, CA, for Martin Oliver
- Roger L. Gordon; Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP; Los Angeles, CA, for Martin Oliver
- Paul Broadus; Vocational Rehabilitation; Claremont, CA called by: Vincent Bennett, Roger Gordon
- H. Fisk M.D.; Neurology; Los Angeles, CA called by: Vincent Bennett, Roger Gordon
- Mark Ezra P.E.; Forensic Engineering; Maryland Heights, MO called by: Vincent Bennett, Roger Gordon
- Ali Sadegh Ph.D.; Biomechanical; New York, NY called by: Vincent Bennett, Roger Gordon
- Peter Formuzis Ph.D.; Economics; Santa Ana, CA called by: Vincent Bennett, Roger Gordon
- Dwayne A. Anderson; Morris Polich & Purdy LLP; Los Angeles, CA, for Hitachi Koki USA Ltd.
- Gary A. Hamblet; Morris Polich & Purdy LLP; Los Angeles, CA, for Hitachi Koki USA Ltd.
- None reported; null, null, for Archuleta Enterprises Inc., Precision Parts, Inc.
- Eric Knox Ph.D., P.E.; Biomechanical; Aurora, IL called by: Dwayne Anderson, Gary Hamblet
- Laura Dolan M.B.A.; Economics; Costa Mesa, CA called by: Dwayne Anderson, Gary Hamblet
- Jeffrey Schaeffer Ph.D.; Neuropsychology; Los Angeles, CA called by: Dwayne Anderson, Gary Hamblet
- Edward Workman Ed.D.; Vocational Rehabilitation; San Clemente, CA called by: Dwayne Anderson, Gary Hamblet
- Sompo Japan Insurance Inc. for Hitachi Koki USA Ltd.
On Nov. 27, 2005, plaintiff Martin Oliver, 55, a journeyman carpenter, was installing skylight curbs on the roof of a building in Fontana when a Hitachi pneumatic nail gun (Model NR83A) that he was using suddenly and forcefully recoiled, causing the nose of the nail gun to depress and fire a nail into his head.
Oliver sued the manufacturer of the nail gun, Hitachi Koki USA Ltd., as well as the entity and owning entity that sold the product to Oliver, Precision Parts Inc. and Archuleta Enterprises Inc. He alleged that the defendants were negligent for defectively designing the nail gun and failing to warn of its dangerous condition.
Prior to trial, all claims asserted against Precision and Archuleta were dismissed, as was the straight negligence claim against Hitachi. Thus, the matter proceeded to trail on the products liability claims against Hitachi only.
Oliver claimed that the subject nail gun was defective because it had a contact trip mechanism that allowed a nail to be fired when the nose of the nail gun was in contact with a surface and the trigger was pulled, regardless of the order in which those events occur. He also claimed that the fact that Hitachi's gun didn't have a sequential trip mechanism, which allows a nail to be fired only if the trigger is pulled after the gun's nose contacts a surface, constituted as a design defect. Oliver further claimed that Hitachi did nothing to minimize or eliminate the defect, and continued to sell the product. In addition, Oliver claimed that Hitachi intentionally omitted any reference to the nail gun's potential for dangerously violent rebounds and risk of inadvertently firing a nail from the later editions of the NR83A instruction manual.
Hitachi claimed that the contact trip firing mode was not defective because the utility of it outweighed the risk of harm. It also claimed that carpenters like Oliver -- the ordinary users of nail guns -- should have the option to choose a nail gun in the contact trip mode due to the speed of operation of the nail gun. Hitachi alleged that, for carpenters who drive over 1,000 nails per day, using nail guns in the sequential trip mode puts them at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from pulling the trigger repeatedly and that in fact, Oliver suffered from this condition.
Defense counsel argued that Oliver's injuries were caused by his own negligence. Counsel contended that evidence showed that Oliver was attempting to drive a nail through a metal hanger -- which was known by the plaintiff to raise significant safety issues -- and that in doing so, he had his face too close to the nail gun and was holding the nail gun improperly.
The Hitachi pneumatic nail gun forcefully recoiled and busted Oliver's lip. At the same time, the nose of the nail gun depressed and fired a nail into his head. Oliver, not realizing a nail had discharged into his head, immediately went to the emergency room to treat his split lip, which was sutured. He was then discharged home. Roughly two weeks later, Oliver began experiencing intense dizziness and headaches, and returned to the emergency room. He subsequently underwent an X-ray, which revealed the nail lodged into his head, penetrating his brain. After going to the hospital in December 2005, Oliver underwent craniotomy surgery for the removal of the nail. He then followed up with neurological and psychiatric care, which he treated with for a few years.
Oliver claimed he continues to experience headaches, imbalance, dizziness and cognition difficulties, including impaired memory. He also claimed he experiences extreme fatigue with intermittent numbness and tingling in his limbs. Oliver alleged that he is permanently disabled and could never return to work as a carpenter. He alleged that as a result, his quality of life has been drastically affected.
Thus, Oliver sought recovery of economic and non-economic damages in excess of $2 million.
The jury found that Hitachi was negligent and awarded Oliver $2,013,017 in total damages.
$1,013,016 Personal Injury: economic damages
$1,000,000 Personal Injury: non-economic damages
Plaintiff's counsel filed a cost bill for approximately $700,000. A motion for a new trial and possible appeal are anticipated from the defense.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.