In a recent case, McGee v. Stihl Inc., Mr. McGee suffered facial lacerations when the saw he was using “kicked back” as he used it to cut a plastic pipe. In addition to his statutory benefits in workers’ compensation, he filed a claim against the manufacturer of the saw for failure to include necessary warnings and instructions on the saw and in the owner’s manual. The manufacturer tried to argue that any damages suffered by Mr. McGee should be reduced because of his improper use of the saw and that the employer should be held responsible in part or in full for its’ negligence in training or supervising.
On December 7, 2011 District Court Judge Mary L. Cooper ruled that an injured worker cannot be held comparatively negligent in a claim against the manufacturer of a saw when he has no meaningful choice in the choice of tools he uses to complete his work. In addition, she ruled that the manufacturer cannot assert that the employer was negligent in supervising and training the injured worker as it is the manufacturer’s obligation to protect the public against defects. It cannot rely on the haphazard conduct of the purchaser to protect itself from liability.
Mr. McGee’s fate still rests in the hands of a jury who will determine whether or not the manufacturer met its obligation to the public, and if not, to what extent he will be compensated. However, any award he ultimately receives will not be subject to reduction by a measure of comparative negligence.