JURY AWARDS $3.4 MILLION in Products Liability Trial

[His] life has never been the same, said lawyer Edward Jazlowiecki, whose firm successfully represented Crutchfield in a civil suit against Stanley Works and Home Depot.

On Thursday, a Superior Court jury in Hartford awarded Crutchfield $3.4 million after it found New Britain-based Stanley Works partly responsible for Crutchfield’s brain injury, which left him partially paralyzed.

The jury found that Crutchfield was 55 percent liable for his injuries because he was firing the nail gun into metal rather than wood. The accident occurred while Crutchfield, 51, of Hartford was standing on a lift, 25 feet in the air, in the rafters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Ludlow.

Crutchfield underwent six hours of surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. He is permanently paralyzed on the left side of his body. The married father of four had worked as a carpenter for 20 years before the accident.

“He will never work again,” Jazlowiecki said. “He’ll never be able to drive again. He is under constant supervision. He has seizures,” he said.

Crutchfield was unavailable for comment.

The nail gun used by Crutchfield, a model N79 also known as a contact trip gun, met industry standards, Ted Morris, the assistant general counsel for Stanley Works, said Friday. He said the company is surprised by the jury’s verdict. “It is a shock to me that we would lose this case. It is the No. 1 choice of carpenters all over the world. The customers demand it.”

Morris said Stanley Works has not decided whether it will appeal the jury’s award. “The tool can be used safely. All power tools pose risk. People have to be very careful and follow the instructions,” he said.

The particular model of nail gun is no longer sold by Home Depot. There have been 129 injuries reported since the 1970s, and 26 of those injured reported brain injuries, according to evidence presented by both sides at trial. Newer models, manufactured by Stanley Bostitch, a Rhode Island-based a subsidy of Stanley Works, are now available. Those models are safer, Crutchfield attorneys say.

Crutchfield testified during the trial, and his defense team relied on experts such as Ali Sadegh, a professor at City College of New York and the center for advanced engineering and design, to described the dangers out the nail gun.

Interviewed by The Courant on Friday, Sadegh said the model N79 nail gun was made in such a way that it is impossible for someone to react when it backfires.

Morris countered that “billions and billions of fasteners [like the one used by Crutchfield] are used each year and are fired safely.”

The six-member jury began hearing evidence in the case Nov. 1. It returned the verdict Thursday after deliberating for eight hours on Wednesday and Thursday, Jazlowiecki said. Another lawyer in his firm, Roger Lehr, argued the case.