Court Documents: Osorio Wasn't Using the Guard or Rip Fence

�© As are all of our blog posts, this story is protected by copyright; Popular Woodworking Magazine, 2010.

If you’re a woodworker, you know about the landmark lawsuit , Carlos Osorio vs. One World Technologies Inc. et al , and about the $1.5 million dollar jury award. Discussions, both for and against the verdict, have been ongoing since the jury decided that One World Technologies (known to us as Ryobi) was at fault. However what most people don’t know are the actual facts of this injury. How did Osorio cut his hand? What injuries did he sustain?

Popular Woodworking Magazine has obtained copies of hundreds of pages of court records from the U.S. District Court clerk that have some very interesting and fascinating facts.

The accident happened on April 19, 2005, and the table saw Osorio was using was a Ryobi BTS 15, which was purchased at Home Depot on Jan. 10, 2005, for $159. At the time of the accident Osorio may have been employed at that company for two months; however, this is not clear, according to a deposition by  Phat Vong, who purchased tools for the flooring company Osorio worked for.

Osorio is from Colombia, has a degree in computer science and was installing flooring as he learned English. At the time of the accident, he was trying to make a rip cut on a 2′-long, 2-1/2″-wide by 3/4″-thick piece of oak flooring, according to court records. He was attempting to cut the board “freehand” without the rip fence, according to the documents. Osorio intended to make a cut in a straight line all the way through the board. He had cut only a small portion of the workpiece when it got stuck at the blade. Osorio immediately experienced chattering and felt vibration in the workpiece. He stopped cutting and cleaned the tabletop. He then attempted to make the same cut again but the chattering continued, and he decided to push the board harder. His left hand then slipped into the spinning saw blade, according to court documents.

The saw blade height above the tabletop was set to approximately 3″ , at or near the maximum elevation, and the guarding system was not installed on the saw during the operation, documents state. The table saw was on the floor, Osorio was kneeling on one leg in front of the table saw, and his body was just to the left of the saw blade, according to a motion filed by Osorio’s lawyers.

When Osorio cleaned the tabletop, he removed dust, wood and other flooring.

During his deposition, the attorney for One World Technologies asked Osorio, “…¦Before you started this cut, did you take the rip fence off?” To which Osorio replied through an interpreter, “Yes, I took that piece off, because we didn’t use that piece only, I only use it when I have to make a straight cut.”

Osorio tried to rip 1/2″ off the board with the blade set at a slight angle. He was into the cut just past the teeth of the blade when his hand slipped forward into the blade, according to the deposition.

Osorio’s left hand was injured , his small and ring finger were completely severed, and his middle and index fingers were severely lacerated, including damage to nerves, blood vessels and tendons. His fingers were surgically repaired and reattached, but he continues to suffer from lack of motion, numbness and pain in his left hand, according to court records.

We’ll publish more details on this case as we learn them.

- Glen D. Huey

41 thoughts on “Court Documents: Osorio Wasn't Using the Guard or Rip Fence

  1. Ken Brucker

    How’s this for an analogy: He removed the safety rails from his deck and sued the builder after falling off the edge. The deck was defective because it did not have motion detectors to detect a fall that would trigger an automatic safety net to catch someone before hitting the ground and breaking his neck.

    First thing Ryobi needs to do is go get new lawyers! The ones they have are clearly incompetent!

    I’m torn about getting a SawStop saw. The added potential safety is nice but I’d like to see #s on misfires due to wet wood or other factors.

    Can someone sue Men’s Warehouse after they get shot because their suit didn’t have a bullet proof vest included? I have a new platform! All clothing should be impact proof to protect the wearer from stabbings and shootings. We have the technology, it’s well known and works… Am I missing how this would be a different liability case? Maybe that clothing manufacturers didn’t explore entering into a product agreement.

  2. Greg DeLong

    Damn Forrest Gump is right "Stupid is as Stupid does" If that sounds harsh I am sorry but after reading the facts i can’t ever imagine employing a man like that. Yes his boss was partially to blame IF he didnt properly teach his employee the right wat to operate any power tool, But as my dear Dad once said "YOU" are resposible for "YOUR" actions. I’ve been a woodworker a long time and yes i have some minor accidents and some major close calls but it was always laziness, stupidty, or just thinking i was a great woodworker that caused the incident. Now i try to keep my head clear and never rush a job. It works so far.
    Greg

  3. Robert Dennison

    OH!, to have been on that jury and speak/vote !

    This scenario is the the life blood of plaintiff attorneys, who manage to endear themselves and the plaintiff to the jury and go home with 40 to 50 % of the proceeds. They won’t take a case no matter how worthy unless the pockets are deep, with few and rare exceptions. And we pay the bill via the Manufacturer’s insurance costs.

    Mistakes were made but NOT by Ryobi, as presented. "Stupid is as ….", they say.No machine is completely safe! Everybody is allowed one ‘little’ kickback but that’s all, and then it’s your problem.

    I think appeals will correct this judicial error.
    Bob

  4. Bob Watt

    My father told me at a young age "only a poor workman blames his tools".
    The employer is to blame not the tool manufacturer. While I sympathise with the injured man, I do not believe that Ryobi is at fault. I own the exact same model sawbench, and if I, and I hope I don’t, get injured from it, it will be my fault and no body elses.
    For the life of me I cannot understand why anybody would want to use a ‘bench’ model on the floor. The moment the guy switched the thing on it was a recipe for disaster.
    Methinks it is too easy to blame somebody else for one’s stupidity.

  5. Noel

    OH, OH.

    I’m 51. I responded to your survey. Never had an accident/injury in working with a table saw over the past 30+ years I have used one as a home owner/DIY’er.

    But I DID just complete my degree – and I am learning a foreign language while I work.

    Does this mean I am destined to have an accident/injury with my power tools???

    I spent 18 years in law enforcement and trust me, I saw a lot of dumb things people do.

    But what caught my attention most was the "winners" statement: Yes, I took that piece off, because we didn’t use that piece only, I only use it when I have to make a straight cut.”

    I have limited talent in the wood working area – I just use them to fix and build things around the house – i don’t build glamorous furniture and the like.

    But, do I now need to buy a new, apparently secret jig, so I can make CURVED cuts on my tablesaw?

    are you experts and pros not sharing all your secrets with us DIY’ers???? shame on you..

    Cove cutting on a TS I have read about – but curved cuts???

    Help us Obi Wan Kinobi!!! You are our only hope.
    Noel

  6. Mark

    I think Norm Abram said it best before every episode of the New Yankee Workshop. "Be sure to READ, UNDERSTAND AND FOLLOW ALL THE SAFETY RULES THAT COME WITH YOUR POWER TOOLS. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury."

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this Osorio person wasn’t wearing safety glasses or hearing protection either. The worst thing is that Ryobi lost the case, so now we’ll all have to pay for his mistakes!

  7. TOM MANVELL

    Sheer STUPIDITY On Several Counts
    His Employer Should Be Held Accountable
    Not Using The Saw Properly Should Get Ryobi Off
    The Hook
    In Canada We Have To Have A Responsibility Test
    To Operate A Motor Boat Or A Motor Bike
    Mabye U Should Have To Take A "Common Sense"
    Test To Operate A Saw….
    TOM M

  8. sandylns

    A fool and his fingers are soon parted, to paraphrase a proverb. What was this company doing? What were the lawyers doing? One can only weep for Ryobi over this decision. Those of us who have been woodworkers all our lives and still have all our fingers, is because we followed ALL the safety instructions. This company and the individual broke every single rule of woodworking. To be rewarded for that is a true shame. OSHA and Ryobi must appeal this asinine verdict.

  9. Paul Arnote

    Where is personal responsibility in all of this? It is the responsibility of the end user to follow all safety warnings and rules when using ANY power tool.

    While I feel badly for the guy for having a moment of poor judgment, my sorrow for his loss does not mean that I think he should receive financial compensation. It is the price you pay for ignoring all safety warnings and common sense safety rules.

    As someone who is in the market for an new, affordable table saw, I personally wouldn’t mind paying a little extra for a saw that incorporated any of the new safety mechanisms to make that new saw safer, so that I can walk away from those times of "less than ideal judgment" with only a scrape or scratch. I am not a professional woodworker. Rather, I am a hobbyist, who enjoys building items for my personal enjoyment.

    This lawsuit does not have to spell the end of the benchtop table saw. One of the saws I have been looking at is the SawStop contractor saw. It’s a bit more than what I would call the "affordable" price range, but then again, what is the cost for each of my appendages? Forget the cabinet saw by SawStop … it’s WAY too expensive for me, as a hobbyist.

    But here’s another item to consider. No matter what safety devices are put into place on a table saw, there will ALWAYS be some clown out there that will find a way to disable that safety device, and who thinks they are above the safety warnings and rules for using that table saw.

    Should benchtop table saws be eliminated from the market? I say no. But they can be made safer while keeping the cost affordable. With the lack of an affordable benchtop table saw, you will see users going back to making their own, homemade table saws with NO safety equipment. I know. My father had one that he had built in the 1950s from a couple of fan belt pulleys and an electric motor. It goes without saying that there were NO safety devices on this table saw, and all such homemade replacements will also be devoid of any safety devices as well.

  10. Chris Campbell

    Sickening.

    When I first heard of the award I was stunned to think a jury could award this. Then I hear of this person’s practices . . . what manner of jobsite allows this!? I trust OSHA now has the employer’s license, if there ever was one.

    So, how is this person’s clear stupidity somehow NOT his fault?!

    Sickening

  11. lawrence i

    I’m confused as to how a jury could have awarded him any compensation, based on the meagre facts I’ve read. He was untrained, unqualified, and likely in a rush as time is money.

    Worst of all, it sounds like his argument is that if a saw-stop like device had been installed, he would not have been injured so badly. Was it not he who said that he removed the safety device that was installed?

    To me this sounds like another case of "I messed up and I want someone else to take responsibility."

    Lastly, why was the business owner not included in the legal proceedings for lack of training and lack of supervision.

    This boggles the mind.

  12. Cal P.

    As much as I empathise for the user and his injuries, the fact is that safety is the equal responsibility of both the operator and their supervisor.

    Nothing in the documentation I have read indicates that the equipment was faulty, deficient, or defective in any manner. The injury came as a result of unsafe work practices used by the employee. If the employee was given proper training on use of the saw, I haven’t seen any written statements that support it. Therefore, liability rests with the employer for having not provided appropriate training, and enforcing proper safe work practices. Had the jury been selected from industry peers, I full well imaging the verdict would have been different. What I’m struggling with is how the legal team representing Ryobi failed to help the jury understand where the responsibility lies. To a large degree I blame this on the North American perception that stupidity should be financially rewarded. Ultimately, people do need to take responsibility for their own actions. That is not to say I don’t feel sorry for this individual. He’s learned a very tough lesson… but the lawsuit should have been targetted towards his employer, not the manufacturer.

    I work in a company that is heavily engaged in the construction industry, and our own (as well as provincial training programs) state that no one should operate equipment without having received proper training. It is their supervisors responsibility to ensure they get that training and that the equipment provided is in good working order, as well as the employee having been provided with proper PPE (personal protection equipment) fit for purpose for the job they’re performing. The employee is responsible for inspecting their equipment before each and every shift to confirm it is in safe operating condition… and that includes all of the standard safety features and guards being in place. The employee has the right of refusal if they are asked to perform work they assess as unsafe. This type of behavior needs to be practices until it becomes automatic, and it is the only way in which a company can seriously consider zero lost time incidents as an achievable and realistic goal.

    The bottom line is that his own inproper deployment and use of standard safety features, coupled with lack of proper training and experience, resulted in a tragic accident. The only thing criminal about this whole incident is that the wrong party was found accountable for the outcome. The big distinction is that I’m somewhat sure the lawyers quickly assessed which might be the more lucrative financial target… an international equipment manufactuer, or a small flooring installation company. Shame on them, and shame on the jury for their verdict. They’ve done us all a disservice.

  13. John G.

    First of all, the guy was completely in the wrong with the way he operated the saw. If he was that ignorant to the proper usage of a table saw, then his employer was also completely in the wrong. I have seen this type of behavior, especially with flooring guys, and it’s a pretty common way to work. I can’t tell you some of the things I’ve seen them use a miter saw for! It’s really scary how stupid some guys in construction are.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t say I feel sorry for the guy after reading how his injury was sustained. All regard for safety features and proper usage of a table saw were thrown out the common sense window.

    I find it amazing a jury could hold a company which made a tool, that while inherently dangerous, had safety features built in place to prevent this accident.

    Should there be a long hard look taken at the table saw as a tool that could use some change? Perhaps, but the way this frivolous lawsuit could affect the industry is just a sign of a legal system gone loco.

    John
    Professional Finish Carpenter

  14. Scott

    Ok,
    Let’s go out an ask every person who lost fingers to table saws if they deserved it? Then, let’s ask them if they wish they had sawstop technology on the saw they were using when injured?
    I don’t know about you guys but I have had some near misses in the shop. What always amazes me is how quick it happens-and I am very safety conscious (featherboards, boardbuddies, sacrificial fences, auxilliary fences…you name it).
    Statistics have been cited that say most saw accidents happen to experienced users. Obviously, the more time we spend on machines the more exposure we have to accidents, but still it does seem to imply that eventually we are more likely to get nicked. Why? Because these machines are inherently dangerous and because constant vigilance is extremely hard to maintain.
    I would be interested in seeing the statistics on the number of ‘kickback’ accidents now that riving knives are almost universal on new machines. That technology has been in Europe for years…why wasn’t it adopted here until lately? Would you buy a new saw without a riving knife now (or could you)?
    Was it a ‘business decision’ like, as some allege, Ryobi adopted in choosing not to go forward with SawStop technology (I believe Ryobi claims that the decision was based on liability issues and ‘hold harmless’ agreements with SawStop).
    I have looked at the SawStop cabinet saw. It seems quite well made with an abundance of safety features other than the ‘stop’. I believe it is selling very well compared to it’s competitors, probably because there is always a market for ‘more’ safety.
    If I am looking for a saw and can afford to buy a SawStop and I don’t, and I end up losing a finger or two…I’m going to really think I’m an idiot.

  15. Dyami Plotke

    I had the horror of whitnessing a similar accident. I was helping a co-worker on his house when I saw him do it. He was using a fence, but also a dado stack. Needless to say his injuries are similar. The one difference seems to be that my coworker had the integrity to admit it was his mistake and not sue anyone.

  16. gdblake

    How the accident happened and who was responsible for the miss operation of the saw was immaterial to this case. From the news articles I read my understanding is that the lawsuit was the idea of the "victim’s" health insurance company who is seeking to avoid having to pay out for these types of injuries. Ryobi was found negligent because they failed to follow through with an agreement to license the SawStop braking system. Right or wrong, more than likely the reasons Ryobi did not license the break were why they lost the suit. What amazes me is that had Ryobi licensed the brake it would not have been a feature of this model saw anyway, at least not at $159. My guess is that had a portable saw been available with the SawStop breaking system the flooring company wouldn’t have bought it because they obviously got one of the cheapest saws they could find.

    Given the description of how the saw was being used at the time of the accident the fault clearly is with the "victim" and the company he worked for. It wouldn’t take much for someone within the flooring company to put together a long crosscut/rip sled that allows for angled cuts to be done safely. There is no way anybody should be feeding stock into a tablesaw in the manner that was described (obviously "an accident waiting to happen"). Hopefully this case will be overturned on appeal.

    The good news is now that the Health Care Plan has passed the Health Insurance Company involved in this case not only gets to continue paying out for stupid self-inflicted injuries, but for all kinds of new stuff too.

  17. Rob Porcaro

    OK, the apparent facts so far include: the operator, kneeling on one leg, rammed a narrow piece freehand into a tablesaw, without a guard in place, with an angled blade raised to full height, and ignored the obvious negative feedback from the machine.

    Short of closing one’s eyes, it would be hard to imagine worse technique.

    This was done by an educated, presumably quite intelligent man. He and his employer presumably used that saw and he took that job with free will. Yes, he had to make a living, but those were their choices made with plenty of access to ample information.

    And somehow, this is Ryobi’s fault??? Furthermore, it is really all of us who will pay the jury award as this and all the other companies pass on the higher costs of goods and legal protection. And we pay in our time and annoyance at what will likely be more lawyer-created verbiage in manuals and warnings.

    I am sorry for Mr. Osorio’s loss. None of us are perfect and he surely does not deserve such a high price to pay for his moments of poor judgement.

    Given the facts as we know them thus far, it is disgusting that the predatory lawyers in our society have perverted common sense such that we all pay for this accident.

    It seems as if the only winners in this are the unctuous, unprincipled lawyers who will take their hefty chunk of the 1.5 mil and pat themselves on their backs.

    Sickening.

  18. Greg

    Whether the operator was correctly trained, whether these are standard practises for floor installation, – we can debate all day (I’ve used a benchtop tablesaw while kneeling, knowing it wasn’t the smartest thing to do). But I don’t see how this in any way makes the manufacturer negligent, or understand how the jury came to that conclusion – and I think 95% of you reading this probably feel the same way.

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