Retired engineer loses four fingers due to design defect of table saw
Personal Injury
Product Liability - Design Defect
Los Angeles Superior Court

Eric Fowler, a 63 year old retired aerospace engineer, lost four fingers on his left hand while reaching for the off switch on his Rockwell home table saw, during a remodel project at his home in Topanga Canyon.  Mr. Fowler reached from the rear of the saw toward the switch located below the table on the left side. The rear “cover” of the saw, also located below table level, was not in place, and plaintiff inadvertently reached into the open space where he contacted the rotating saw blade. All four fingers of the left hand were traumatically amputated. The index finger was surgically reimplanted in place of the middle finger, and the little finger was also reimplanted during emergency surgery at County-USC Medical Center.

We claimed in this case that the saw, designed and manufactured by the Delta division of Rockwell International, was defective in design in that the rear cover was not made a permanent part of the saw cabinet or more securely affixed to the cabinet. It was held in place by two gravity tabs which allowed the cover to be easily removed from the table saw.  We contended that this design failed to provide adequate below-table guarding as required by various safety 

Rockwell contended that our client was negligent for not looking before he reached below the table for the off switch, and instead into the open space left by the missing cover.  Rockwell further contended that the saw was originally equipped with a screw to permanently affix the cover to the saw.  However, a Rockwell engineer admitted in his testimony that the screw was designed merely as a “shipping screw” to prevent the cover from falling off and being lost during shipment.

Our claim of economic damages was limited to the past medical expenses of $27,852. 

The jury in this matter deliberated for over five full days following a six day trial and found Mr. Fowler 21% at fault and his helper 9% at fault, resulting in the verdict reduction to $1,400,000.