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Techtronic Defeats Flesh Detection Claims In Louisiana

May 26, 2015

Techtronic Industries North America, Inc. was successful in defeating a Louisiana plaintiff’s claims that a Ryobi brand table saw was defective and unreasonably dangerous because it lacked flesh sensing technology known as SawStop.

Plaintiff Dixon filed suit in 2013, claiming that Techtronic is liable for injuries he suffered when using the Ryobi table saw. Dixon claims that the saw is defective due to its guard design and because it lacks flesh detection technology.

U.S. District Judge Robert G. James partially granted Techtronic’s Motion for Summary Judgment, partially granted the Motion to Exclude Plaintiff’s Expert Robert Holt, and granted in full the Motion to Exclude the prior testimony of Dr. Stephen Gass, the inventor of SawStop. The result is that Plaintiff’s proffered experts and witnesses on the issue of flesh detection technology have been excluded, and Plaintiff’s claims related to flesh detection technology have been thrown out.

Robert Holt was Plaintiff’s sole testifying expert on the issue of flesh detection technology. In excluding Holt’s opinions on this issue, the Court ruled as follows: “Holt’s opinions regarding the feasibility of incorporating flesh detection technology are inadmissible because they are unsupported by any personal knowledge or any relevant testing and analysis. Holt offers no opinions based on his own testing that flesh detection technology could have been incorporated into [the subject model saw], or a saw like it, and his opinions regarding the economic feasibility of integrating the technology are not his own.”

Likewise, the Court excluded the prior testimony of the inventor of SawStop technology, Stephen Gass. Dr. Gass refused to testify in the case, and the Court ruled that Dr. Gass’s unsworn declaration and prior trial testimony were inadmissible, unreliable, and should be excluded. “Because the Court finds that Holt is not qualified to testify regarding feasibility and because Dixon has failed to offer any other competent feasibility evidence, he would have to rely exclusively on Dr. Gass’s prior testimony. However, Dr. Gass’s testimony does not provide sufficient economic analysis for the factfinder to adequately consider the burden of implementing flesh detection technology into the [subject model saw].”

Finally, the Court granted Techtronic’s Motion for Summary Judgment, in part, because Plaintiff “failed to present competent evidence regarding the economic feasibility of integrating the technology,” and “fail[ed] to provide sufficient analysis for the factfinder to weigh the risk avoided by the technology against the burden [of] adopting it.” Thus, the Court excluded Plaintiff’s claim that flesh detection technology is a feasible alternative design.

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