A St. Louis County jury held that a contractor shot in the eye by a nail gun is not entitled to compensation from the carpenter who was operating the piece of equipment.
“Somehow, the nail deflected, went clear across the room and, most unfortunately, struck Mr. Taylor in the left eye,” said Jeffrey Lester of Watters Wolf Bub & Hansmann, who represented defendant Selsor Design and Construction.
The plaintiff, Richard Taylor, was working at a residential job site in June 2018 when Matthew Selsor fired the pneumatic tool while trying to attach a pair of two-by-fours. Taylor was working about 30 to 40 feet away.
Lester said that the plaintiff sought $3.25 million in damages, claiming some vision loss from the incident as well as pain and migraine headaches. He said that the plaintiff argued a theory of negligence based on a “misfire event” where the nail simply missed the workpiece and ricocheted in such a way as to hit Taylor.
“We argued that that had no merit whatsoever,” Lester said, characterizing the event as a freak accident rather than any sort of negligence. “My client was an extremely experienced carpenter with more than 30 years under his belt. He’d built a lot of structures over the years and was very acquainted with a nail gun. We argued there was no way he would make that kind of a careless mistake.”
The plaintiff apparently briefly removed his eye protection to wipe it before the incident.
“The plaintiff said that he didn’t think he was in the zone of danger and that’s why he took the glasses off,” said Lester. “That was a double-edged sword for him because then we were able to argue, ‘Look, you didn’t think you were in the zone of danger. Mr. Selsor also had no reason to foresee this accident or believe you were in the zone of danger.’”
James Guirl, an attorney for the plaintiff, did not return a message requesting comment.
Venue: St. Louis County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 19SL-CC03859/Jan. 27, 2023
Judge: Ellen Ribaudo
Plaintiff’s Experts: Stewart Burkhammer, Deland, Florida (construction safety); Timothy Kaver, St. Louis (vocational); David Brigham, St. Louis (ophthalmologist); Mary Haschke, Omaha, Nebraska (ophthalmologist)
Defendants’ Experts: Todd Sieleman, Olathe, Kansas (workplace safety)
Last Pretrial Demand: $980,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $40,000
Caption: Richard Taylor v. Selsor Design and Construction LLC and Matthew Selsor
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: James Guirl, Guirl Law Firm, St. Louis
Defendants’ Attorneys: Jeffrey Lester, Watters Wolf Bub & Hansmann, St. Louis