Safety is worth a lot more than $3.4 million
Five years ago, Jerry Crutchfield took a 3-in. framing nail through the cheek and into his brain. In December 2007, his lawsuit against Stanley Fastening Systems and The Home Depot was settled. The jury awarded Crutchfield $3.4 million, 45% of the $7.6 million sought because the jury considered him to be 55% responsible for the accident. Crutchfield was installing drywall blocking overhead when the nailer double-fired, causing it to kick back violently.
The reason the nailer kicked back so violently was the matter of dispute. Crutchfield’s attorney, Rodger W. Lehr Jr., claims it was because the second nail hit the exact center of the previous nail (called a “column-on-column” hit), transferring all the force to recoil. Because there were steel-framing connectors in the rafters, it was also surmised that Crutchfield had nailed through the framing connectors, causing the massive recoil. Regardless of the cause, Crutchfield’s elbow shot back, slammed against the framing, and bounced forward. With his finger still on the trigger, the nosepiece of the nail gun hit his cheek. The former carpenter is now paralyzed on his left side and is prone to seizures.
The contact-trip nail gun, Stanley model N79, met industry safety standards. The Home Depot no longer sells the nail gun, and Stanley now makes a safer model.
According to Lehr, an issue of Fine Homebuilding was used to present information relating to different firing mechanisms in nail guns. In “Framing With Nail Guns” (FHB #124), authors Rick Arnold and Mike Guertin offer this advice: “All nailers recoil: It’s a matter of physics. But guns with contact-trip triggers can double-fire when the recoil action of the nailer lifts the nosepiece off the work. Then, either the back of the gun bounces off an adjacent framing member, or the pressure of your arm instantly pushes the nailer back, causing it to fire a second time. … The [whole] sequence happens so quickly that the errant nail may fasten a foot to the floor or bury itself in a crew member working nearby.”
Arnold and Guertin close the article by advising that “metal plates and nail guns don’t mix.”
Photo by: Angel Moon Photography