Should flesh-sensors - devices like SawStop's that shut down a table saw instantaneously when the blade nicks a piece of the operator's flesh - be required on all table saws the way air bags are required on cars?

Weighing in on a court case in which the parent company for Ryobi tools was forced to pay $27,000 to a plaintiff, William Anderson, who lost three fingers in a table-saw accident, attorneys Neil Wilcove and Daniel Nicholson examine the possibility that all table saws may be required to include flesh-sensing technology.

In the Anderson case, the Ryobi sawmaker was only deemed 25% liable. The operator was deemed 75% negligent, largely because he removed the blade guard. So the penalty to the sawmaker in this case was fairly low. However, it sets a precedent in court that has  undoubtedly sent ripples through the tool universe.

Looking at the Anderson case, as well as other recent court cases involving flesh-sensing technologies, the attorneys writing in Tools of the Trade show it's far from a clear mandate for other table saw manufacturers. Nevertheless, all are surely lining up their own attorneys.

From a legal perspective these results mean a couple of things. Each state has its own laws regarding strict product liability and negligence, so it is difficult to predict how future lawsuits will end, depending on the state a complaint is filed and the jury you are dealing with. On a micro level that means we may be seeing more lawsuits involving flesh-detecting safety technology.

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