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ARTICLE ID 187747

$________ Product Liability – Manufacturing Defect – Edgebander’s safety feature claimed to have been bypassed prior to sale to employer – Amputation of several fingers and part of thumb on non-dominant hand.

Gloucester County, NJ

In this products liability action, the plaintiff worker was using a device known as an Edgebander, which applied edge-banding to woodworking materials, which were cut via a saw on trim units located underneath a safety hood/guard enclosure. A safety switch/interlock was designed to shut off all power to the machine whenever the hood was raised. The safety switch had been bypassed sometime prior to the incident and the machine still ran and the saw blades continued to rotate with this safety hood/guard raised unless the end-user remembered to turn off the saw blades with a switch that was located on the front of the machine. Amongst other defendants, the plaintiff named the importer and the immediate seller, under theories of negligence, defective design, failure to warn and a manufacturing/sales defect.

At the time of trial, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed all negligence claims and then settled with the importer and prior seller, defendant Adwood for $________ after picking a jury and before opening statements. The plaintiff then focused on the manufacturing/sales defect against the remaining defendant, Skarie, Inc., and produced evidence only regarding the bypassed safety device during trial. The plaintiff contended that the interlock was missing when sold to the employer by defendant, Skari, over two years before the accident.

The plaintiff obtained a dismissal of design defect claims and argued that failure to warn claims should also be dismissed for lack of evidence and expert testimony. The plaintiff also argued under Jurado v. Western Gear Works, ________ N.J. ________ (________), that if the jury finds that the product was defective in the form of the bypassed safety switch, upon sale to the employer, proximate cause is predetermined and subsumed, as the safety device was designed and intended to prevent the very harm that occurred. The plaintiff argued that if the jury determined that the safety switch was in a defeated condition when the edge-bander was sold to the employer, since the safety feature was designed to shut off power when the hood was raised, there could be no finding other than that the defect was at least a proximate cause of the accident. The court did not grant the plaintiff’s motion of a directed verdict on proximate cause.

The injuries were sustained on the left, non-dominant hand. The plaintiff sustained amputations of the middle, ring and pinky fingers, as well as partial amputation of his thumb. His index finger was not injured in this accident and had previously been partially amputated. His middle finger was successfully re-attached, but required various surgical procedures, including the removal of some bone in a later surgery. The middle finger was left with no ability to bend. The tip of the thumb and the entire pinky (fourth finger) could not be salvaged and were lost. The ring finger was reattached, but completely amputated in a subsequent surgery because of necrosis and the failure of the salvage attempts.The case against the co-defendant settled for $________ during deliberations which is in addition to the $________ settlement with the importer, for a total recovery of $________.

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