The Herald News
After two days of deliberations, a Will County Circuit Court jury returned a $2 million verdict Tuesday night for a Joliet carpenter who suffered severe left hand injuries on a power saw.
The verdict for Robert Stukel, 52, of 631 Bethel Drive was against Black & Decker Corp. of Towson, Md
Stukel’s lawyer, Laird Ozmon, asked for $2.4 million damages in the product liability case.
The jury awarded that sum when it reported the verdict to Associate Judge Thomas Ewert after a total of 21 hours of deliberations. But the jury reduced the amount by 18 percent for Stukel’s contributory fault. The verdict can be appealed by the defendant.
Stukel was using a 10-inch Black & Decker miter saw when the accident occurred June 11, 1986, on a site for medical offices at 2 Uno Circle. One third of his palm and thumb were amputated.
Doctors at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park resewed the thumb with microsurgery, Ozmon said.
Stukel’s index finger had to be amputated a year later in one of eight hand surgeries.
The suit charged negligence because the company failed to put a right-side guard on the saw. The inventor, Donald Clark, testified he told company officials the device needed a right-side guard as well as one on the left side.
Clark said the company wanted to get the saw on the market in a hurry. He said he could not figure how to put on the guard and have the saw cut 2-by-4 lumber on edge. He said the company then told him to drop the idea.
Defense lawyer Daniel Kennedy told the jurors even if there had been a right-side guard, the accident would not have been prevented because of the manner in which Stukel was using the saw.
Daniel Montague, a Black and Decker safety expert, testified the supplemental guard would not have made any difference. He said the saw, was certified safe for use by Underwriter Laboratories.
The saw was bought in 1978. In 1982, four years before Stukel’s injury, Underwriters Laboratories changed standards, requiring the guard. Black & Decker did not recall the saw or notify purchasers of the new requirement, Ozmon said.