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Law Offices of Matthew C. Bishop, Inc.
Serving Napa, Marin and Solano Counties

New table saw safety measures could affect product liability

Product liability issues relating to table saw injuries could rise as products designed to prevent injury become more prevalent. In California, according to California Civil Jury Instructions 1203, among the essential elements of a strict liability action (pdf) for harm by a product is whether the injury caused by a product's design was foreseeable or the result of intended use. As technologies are proven to be easily implemented without an unduly burdensome cost, it may be argued that failure to implement certain safety standards in their designs could open manufacturers to liability for design defects because a table saw cannot perform safely as would be expected by a consumer if it is likely to cause injury when used as intended. In other words, the absence of a safety component in a design could ultimately be considered a design defect. This is so because the benefits of a cheaper but more dangerous saw may not outweigh the risk of danger in that design.

New developments in table saw safety are highlighting what appears to be a very common and unnecessary injury from table saws: amputations. In fact, according to National Public Radio, about 11 amputations occur every single day in the United States and many thousands more report to emergency rooms with injuries. According to reports, it appears that the number of daily amputations between 2006 and 2015 has stayed relatively even, which indicates to some that "[t]he industry's efforts to date have failed to reduce serious injuries." Congress has avoided appropriating funds for the purpose of authorizing the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to implement a rule designed to address safety standards for "blade-contact injuries on table saws." Lobbyists who oppose the proposed rules have spent thousands toward their efforts to defeat it. Some say that implementing proposed safety standards would financially overburden the industry.

While there may not be a correlation between safety and higher sales, the benefits of implementing safer designs might actually outweigh the costs. Technological developments coupled with increased risk of liability could result in the implementation, then standardization, of new safety designs and features. 

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