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Middlesex County, Massachusetts

This action arose out of a construction site accident involving a plaintiff senior plumbing foreman, in his mid-40’s at the time of injury, who suffered a severe scapholunate dissociation of the right major wrist while operating a hammer drill sold and distributed by the defendant Hilti, Inc. The plaintiff’s cause of action was grounded in products liability theories of negligent design, breach of warranty and failure to warn. The plaintiff additionally asserted a 93A Consumer Protection claim based upon Massachusetts law stating that to sell something in breach of its warranty of merchantability constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice.

On May 14, ________, the plaintiff was working at a construction project as a senior plumbing foreman for a large commercial plumbing contractor.

The plaintiff’s job duties included installing pipe fasteners into concrete walls and ceilings with a rotary hammer drill sold and distributed by the defendant, Hilti, Inc. While the plaintiff was standing on a ladder and drilling into the ceiling with two hands, the drill bit jammed and the machine’s counter torque jarred the plaintiff, causing him to remove his left hand from the machine so that he could keep his balance on the ladder. Because of a design defect in the drill, a gap between the trigger and handle of the machine allowed the plaintiff’s finger to become trapped during the counter torque of the drill. With the finger jammed between the trigger and handle, the machine remained activated and the plaintiff’s wrist could not withstanding the excessive amount of torque generated by the drill.

The plaintiff suffered a severe scapholunate dissociation of the right wrist. The treating surgeon testified that the plaintiff underwent three surgical procedures culminating with a partial fusion which left him permanently disabled from working as a plumber. The plaintiff was required to wear a cast for approximately three years and never returned to work in the plumbing business. Because of the length of time spent in a cast and due to residual disability in the wrist, the plaintiff could not find any other employment despite repeated attempts to obtain work. The plaintiff is a high school graduate with a life expectancy of 28 years and a worklife expectancy of ten years.

At the time of injury, the plaintiff was earning approximately $________ per year. The plaintiff’s medical bills totaled $________ and the plaintiff claimed $________ in lost wages.

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant seller and distributor alleging negligence and breach of warranty in the design and sale of the hammer drill. The plaintiff additionally alleged that the defendant failed to warn of the drill’s dangerous propensity to cause wrist injuries. The plaintiff’s expert testified at trial that the machine was defective because it allowed the operator’s finger to become jammed between the trigger and handle and because the "safety clutch" was not designed to engage until after excessive torque was applied to the wrist.

The defendant denied that the machine was defective and contended that the plaintiff was responsible for his own injury in using the machine with only one hand and in losing his balance on the ladder.

Under cross-examination, the defendant’s expert admitted that the defendant was aware of workers using the drill while standing on ladders and working overhead, and of workers being injured during one-handed operation. The expert also admitted that the safety clutch would not trigger until counter torque capable of causing injury was obtained.

The plaintiff noted that the defendant was unable to point to any instruction or warning concerning one-handed operation.

The jury found for the plaintiff on the negligence and breach of warranty claims and awarded $________ in damages. The jury’s finding of 1% comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiff did not reduce the verdict in light of the breach of warranty finding. The judge thereafter awarded $________ in attorneys fees and $________ in costs under M.G.L.C. 93A. Total judgment, including interest, amounted to $________.

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