PHILADELPHIA — A Delaware couple have filed a lawsuit against the maker of a tool that they allege is defective and unreasonably dangerous.
Plaintiffs Michael and Christina Francisco claim while Michael was working at a construction site on Aug. 11, 2016, he was cutting pipes with a Hilti power tool. According to their filed complaint with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, “As Mr. Francisco attempted to use the subject product, its defective and unreasonably dangerous condition resulted in the subject product experiencing a sudden and uncontrollable ‘kick-back’ which, in turn, caused the rotating saw blade to strike Mr. Francisco in the face and neck region.”
As a result, alleges the suit, “Mr. Francisco sustained catastrophic, disfiguring, and permanent injuries to his face and head, including but not limited to severe and disabling injuries to the skin, bone, muscles, flesh, nerves, tendons, blood vessels and other tissues in his face.”
The Franciscos allege that Hilti is liable for damages because the tool “was defective and unreasonably dangerous to the ultimate users and operators, including Mr. Francisco.”
Thomas Sheridan, an attorney with Philadelphia law firm Sheridan and Murray who specializes in personal injury law, provided some insight on design defect claims such as this.
“You don’t have to prove that it was not broken from being misused,” he told the Pennsylvania Record. “You basically get an expert in to say that the design of the product is unreasonably dangerous, and as such because it’s unreasonably dangerous, it’s defective… So the question becomes, can you come up with a safer alternative design that would eliminate the unreasonably dangerous condition?”
The couple are asking for damages against Hilti “in excess of $50,000.”
“Pennsylvania’s an interesting state, because Pennsylvania does not allow lawyers to ask for specific damage amounts,” Sheridan said. “So [in] states like Texas, you can stand up and say, ‘You should award me $5 million, here’s why,’ but Pennsylvania doesn’t allow you to seek an amount. So typically it will say ‘an amount in excess of $50,000’ simply because that’s the arbitration threshold, to get over arbitration and be entitled to a jury trial.”
As a result of Mr. Francisco’s injuries, the couple are requesting damages on a number of counts. First, “for the significant compensatory losses Mr. Francisco has incurred, and will continue to incur in the future as a result of lost past and future earnings, lost earning capacity, past and future medical care, scarring, deformity, main, mental anguish… and inability to pursue and enjoy the normal and ordinary pleasures of life.”
Second, the lawsuit alleges that “as a direct and proximate result of the Aug. 11, 2016, incident and the defective subject product, Mr. Francisco endured, and continues to endure significant conscious pain and suffering.”
And third, the couple alleges: “As a direct and proximate result of the subject incident and the defective subject product, Plaintiff Christina Francisco has sustained a loss of consortium… [The defendant’s actions] have deprived her of the love, affection, companionship, service, guidance, tutelage, comfort, care, and consortium of her spouse.”
Although the couple live in Delaware, and Hilti is based out of Delaware and Oklahoma, the lawsuit has been filed in Pennsylvania.
“The defendant Hilti does substantial business in Philadelphia, so there’s jurisdiction over the company in Philadelphia,” explained Sheridan. “And sometimes, even if this happened in Delaware, with its proximity to Philadelphia, the plaintiff may have gotten a substantial amount of medical treatment in Philadelphia, and if some of the witnesses and medical treaters are in Philadelphia, and there’s jurisdiction over the company in Philadelphia, that would typically permit the case to be brought there.”