Printer Friendly

Product liability reform is long overdue.

PRODUCT LIABILITY REFORM IS LONG OVERDUE

Knowing what a woodworking machine can do to a piece of wood, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what will happen to a finger, hand or other body part that strays into the cutting zone.

It's not a pretty sight.

No matter how high a degree of safety is engineered into a machine's design, the potential for serious injury is ever present. Woodworking machines by their nature are dangerous. This fact, in itself, should command the respect of the user to follow safe operating procedures. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.

In the course of my travels with WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS, I've been to plants where broom sticks are wedged into machines to circumvent automatic shut-off devices. I've seen more than a few operators run their saws with the guards removed to save time between blade changes. And as often as not, I've seen employees operating machines while not wearing safety glasses and other protective gear.

Who's at fault?

Victims of work-related machining accidents are entitled to compensation for their injuries - even in instances where their own gross negligence played significantly in causing the injury. Unfortunately, in our lawsuit-happy society, irregardless of who is really to blame, the knee-jerk reaction to personal injury is to hire a lawyer and sue the pants off everyone in sight. Invariably, the specter of guilt falls on the machinery manufacturer, even when operator carelessness is the most obvious cause of blame. The system is costly to industry and consumers alike.

The 25 members of the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America who lobbied their congressmen June 20 to support federal product liability reform do not argue against the right of people injured while using their machines to file lawsuits. But they do question the chaotic system of tort reform as currently comprised by 50 separate state laws.

The Product Liability Fairness Act authored by Sen. Robert Kasten (R-Wis.) would bring a vital measure of uniformity and predictability to product liability actions. Objectives of the bill include:

* Eliminating lawsuits involving products more than 25 years old.

* Disallowing lawsuits in which the claimant's use of alcohol or drugs was the primary cause of the accident.

* Eliminating the "deep pocket" pay-out system; non-economic damage awards would be based on the proportion of each defendant's share of the responsibility for the harm rather than on which defendant has the most assets.

For more than a decade, Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), a trial lawyer and chairman of the Commerce Committee, has blocked Kasten's attempts at product liability reform. At long last Hollings has indicated he will allow the bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote. Now is the time to write or phone your senators and representative to support Kasten's bill; don't give Hollings time to change his mind.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Christianson, Rich
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Words:471
Previous Article:Northland cuts labor and fuel costs.
Next Article:Juvenile furniture grows up.
Topics:


Related Articles
Two Days in the U.N.'s Glass Building.
EDITORIAL : LOCAL REVENUE MEASURES.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.
CALPERS AUDIT REQUESTED RICHMAN CITES CONFLICT-OF-INTEREST REPORTS.
EDITORIAL WEEK IN REVIEW.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters