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Man wins with jury after losing eye to staple gun

A St. Louis jury awarded $11 million to a man who shot himself in the eye with a pneumatic staple gun, though jurors also held the plaintiff 30 percent at fault for his injury.

Andrew Wilkinson, who had worked for a company that supplied equipment to the flooring industry, had purchased the used Stanley staple gun during a contractor’s going-out-of-business sale. His attorney, David Grebel of Niemeyer, Grebel & Kruse in St. Louis, said the device sat unused in the man’s basement until about four years later, when he started his own flooring business.

As he was starting a job, Grebel said, Wilkinson had set out his tools, including the staple gun, on the floor.

“He was measuring things, and the staple gun — the hose in particular — was in the way,” Grebel said. “He went to toss it out of the way and it shot him right in his eyeball.”

Wilkinson, then 33, lost his right eye as a result. He alleged in a lawsuit that the manufacturer, Stanley Fastening Systems, had failed to outfit the staple gun with the industry-standard safety device that prevents it from being fired until the tip is pressed against a surface. He also alleged that the company had failed to warn him that it lacked such a safety.

David Coffman of Thompson Coburn, an attorney for the defense, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Grebel said the defense claimed the secondhand tool was intended to be used only in an industrial setting, that he should have known it had no safety because it was open and obvious and he was experienced with tools. They also argued the plaintiff should have been wearing safety glasses and that he should not have thrown it.

“It was a challenging case,” Grebel said.

Grebel said he didn’t submit medical bills or other economic damages and instead based his $14 million damages request on the effect the loss of they would have on Wilkinson. With the plaintiff’s comparative fault, the final judgment is expected to be $7.7 million.

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$11 million verdict

Product Liability

Allocation of Fault: 70 percent to defendant, 30 percent to plaintiff. Net judgment of $7,700,000

Venue: St. Louis Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 1622-CC10568/March 10, 2023

Judge: Clinton Wright

Last Pretrial Offer: $75,000

Plaintiff’s Experts: Ben Railsback, Critical Guidance Engineering, Denver, Colorado (product liability); Ilene Zackowitz, San Diego, California (human factors and warnings)

Defendant’s Expert: Erick Knox, Chicago, Illinois (engineering)

Caption: Andrew Wilkinson v. Stanley Fastening Systems

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: David L. Grebel, Mark Niemeyer, Michael Kruse and Patrick Hamacher, Niemeyer, Grebel & Kruse, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorney: David Coffman, Thompson Coburn, St. Louis

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