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ARTICLE ID 161681

- PRODUCT LIABILITY - ALLEGED DEFECTIVE DESIGN OF CRIMPING TOOL - FAILURE TO WARN - BREACH OF IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY - RIGHT HAND CRUSH INJURY - FRACTURE OF FOURTH METACARPAL - MULTIPLE SURGERIES REQUIRED.

US District Court, District of Massachusetts

In this product liability matter, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant was negligent in designing its 320E crimping tool and failed to properly warn users of the tool, such as the plaintiff. The plaintiff sustained a crush injury to his dominant hand and a fracture of his fourth metacarpal as a result of the incident. The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was not using the tool properly when he injured himself and the injury was therefore, not as a result of any negligence on the part of the defendant.

The 29-year-old male plaintiff, a licensed plumber, was injured when he used the defendant’s 320E crimping tool. The plaintiff alleged that he was standing on the fourth step of a six foot ladder and after he completed the crimp, he was unable to remove the defendant’s tool from the two inch copper tubing. In an attempt to release the jaws, he alleged to have "jiggled" the tool which allegedly caused the jaws to release sooner than expected. He lost his balance on the ladder.

When he lost his balance, the jaws of the crimper became unfastened from the copper tubing. He used his right hand to brace himself on the tubing and his hand slipped between the jaws of the crimper. The plaintiff was afraid that he was going to drop the tool and he inadvertently squeezed the trigger with his left hand, causing the tool to inadvertently turn on. The plaintiff had squeezed the trigger long enough for the tool to lock onto the plaintiff’s right hand, exerting an extreme amount of force and crushing the plaintiff’s hand.

As a result of the incident, the plaintiff sustained a crush injury to his right hand and an open compound fracture of the fourth metacarpal with lacerations of the dorsal and palmar aspect of his right hand. He underwent surgery in the hospital immediately following the incident. He had to undergo a second surgery, as a result of the non-union, eight months later.

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant on a product liability theory, alleging that the design of the crimper was defective and the defendant failed to warn the plaintiff and others who used the product that there is no way to disengage the tool once the crimping process has been initiated. The plaintiff alleged that the tool should have been equipped with a dual action switch and an emergency override. The plaintiff alleged that he incurred approximately $________ in medical expenses and incurred $________ in lost wages.

The defendant denied the allegations of negligence. The defendant contended that the plaintiff was not using the tool in a safe manner and it was his own negligence that caused the incident and resulted in his injuries. The defendant contended through its expert testimony that the plaintiff must have been standing on the fifth or top step of the ladder at the time of the incident. The defendant maintained that if the plaintiff was in fact on the top of the ladder, as its expert maintained, then the plaintiff’s use of the ladder constituted improper use of the ladder and unsafe use of the defendant’s crimping tool which warns against such use. Further, the defendant maintained that the plaintiff was able to return to work full time without any restriction after his second surgery.

The matter was tried over a period of one week, and after two hours of deliberations, the jury returned its verdict in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff.

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