$1 Million Awarded in Product Lawsuit
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
Tuesday, August 24, 1999
By John Flynn Rooney
Law Bulletin writer
A federal jury has awarded $1 million to a downstate carpenter who cut off an index finger, while using a table saw to make bird feeders in his garage.
The jury returned the verdict Monday in favor of Krause, 41, of Huntley, IL, and against Pittsburgh-based Delta International Machinery Corp., which manufactured the saw and "out-feed table" at issue in the lawsuit.
The six-member jury, four men and two women, reduced its verdict from $1.37 million to $1.096 million based on its finding that Krause assumed a risk of injury by using the saw and table the way he did, according to his attorney, Christopher T. Hurley of Chicago.
Delta's attorney, Chicago lawyer Donald Segal, said Tuesday that his client will ask U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, who presided over the five-day trial, to review his rulings concerning the qualifications of, and methodology used, by the plaintiff's expert witness and the judge's decisions about several evidentiary issues. If the post-trial motions fail. Delta may turn to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he said.
Segal noted that Krause's left index finger was amputated and that he lost the use of his left thumb in of the accident.
"The jury must have felt that was an important injury for a carpenter," said Segal, a principal of Segal, McCambridge, Singer & Mahoney, Ltd., Kathleen M. McDonough, an associate with Segal's firm, also represents Delta International.
On April 8, 1996, Krause was in the garage of his McHenry County home busy at his hobby - making bird feeders. The right-handed carpenter was guiding a 20-inch length of wood through the saw when the material caught on the out-feed table, said plaintiff attorney, Hurley, who heads a law firm bearing his name.
As Krause tried to free the board, it flipped and knocked his left hand into the saw blade, Hurley said. The product liability and negligence lawsuit alleged that the design of the table and saw caused the wood to become jammed resulting in the accident.`
"The evidence was clear that the manufacturer never put the extension table through any testing," Hurley said. "The jury felt that was unacceptable for something like a table saw."
Segal said, however, that Delta has not heard of any similar accident involving an extension table.
At trial, the defense attorney told the jury that the extension table was properly designed and that the accident could not have occurred as Krause said it did.
Krause, whose medical bills totaled about $68,000, now works as a supervisor for a construction company based in the southwest suburbs, Hurley said.
Michael T. Mertz, an associate with Hurley's firm, also represents Krause.
The case is Robert Krause v. Delta International Machinery Corp., No. 98 C 735.
The verdict in Krause's case falls well below the Illinois record for an amputated finger, according to John Kirkton, manager of the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter. Several verdicts exceeding $1 million for the loss of a finger have been reported in the state in the past decade, he added.
The record, a $20.5 million verdict, was returned by a Grundy County jury in November 1997. The award to Richard Kopczick included $553,645 in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages against Hobart Corp., Kirkton said.
Kopczick's left index finger was partially amputated in a mishap with a meat-cutting saw, said his attorney, John D. Peacock of Peacock & McFarland in Morris.
The defendant appealed to the 3d District Appellate Court, which heard oral arguments on April 15. The parties are awaiting a written decision from the appeals court. Peacock said. That case is Richard Kopczick v. Hobart Corp., No. 3-98-0465.