Man Paralyzed In Nail-Gun Accident Wins $15 Million Settlement
BOSTON (AP) _ A man hospitalized since being left quadriplegic by a gun-fired nail that severed his spine two years ago has settled a lawsuit for $15.35 million and says he’ll use some of the money to help him return home.
Eugene Doran, an insurance agent and Vietnam veteran, was getting a haircut at a barbershop in suburban Andover on April 15, 1986, when he was hit by a 3- inch nail fired from a high-velocity gun being used to install a storage chest next door.
The settlement, reached Wednesday in the second day of a U.S. District Court trial and described as one of the largest of its kind in the nation, is to be paid by Taylor Rental Corp., its Andover franchise and makers of the nail gun, said Doran’s lawyers.
″Here’s a guy who came through Vietnam and the Tet offensive unscathed only to be shot down while having his hair cut,″ said one of the lawyers, James Meehan.
The 40-year-old Doran, who has been hospitalized since the accident, said he will use part of the money to fit his home with lifts and ramps.
″I’m just very relieved that one item - a very important item - is off our shoulders,″ said Doran, accompanied by his wife, Kathy, at a news conference at the Veterans Administration Hospital here. The couple have three children.
″I really have never had much anger ... maybe because it was an accident,″ he said. ″I couldn’t even tell you the man’s name who did it. I never asked. I have frustration at times ... and this has changed my family’s life. I’m just glad it’s over.″
Leo Boyle, another lawyer representing Doran, said the suit cited Taylor and a Taylor franchise in Andover for renting the gun after company headquarters ordered the units destroyed due to insurance liability problems.
A memo was sent to all Taylor company-owned rental centers a month before Doran was paralyzed, but the approximately 250 franchised outlets were not notified, the attorneys said.
The worker, an uninsured part-time carpenter, thought he was working on a concrete-backed wall when he shot the nail at chest level. The nail traveled through wood and sheetrock before striking Doran in the side of the neck.
The high-velocity nail-gun used a .22-caliber cartridge to drive the nails at 700 to 800 feet a second, said Boyle. The guns are no longer produced in the United States, although low-velocity nail-guns are still in use, said Boyle.
The settlement is one of the top five lump-sum compensatory court settlements in U.S. history, said Donald Marshall, research director at Ohio- based Jury Verdict Research Inc., which monitors court awards.
According to the settlement, Taylor will pay approximately $11 million and about $3.25 million will be paid by the nail-gun manufacturers, Amca International Corp. and Desa Industries Inc., both of Hanover, N.H., and Desa International Inc. of Bowling Green, Ky. The Andover franchise will pay the remaining sum. Taylor, a subsidiary of Stanley Works, is based in New Britain, Conn.
″I think it is clear that there were very serious injuries to Mr. Doran and Taylor Rental Corp., which is a subsidiary of Stanley Works, decided in the best interests of all parties concerned to settle the case,″ said Ronald Gilrain, a vice president at Stanley Works. The company expects to recover the settlement costs from its insurers, Gilrain said.
Jack Degange, manager of corporate services for Amca International, said today the company would not comment on the settlement. Mike Head, manager of industrial relations for Desa International, said the company official authorized to comment was not in the office today.
The last known serious incident with a nail-gun also occurred in a barbershop, Boyle said.
A woman waiting for her son to get a haircut in the Akron, Ohio, area was killed by a nail shot through a wall in October 1979. Taylor Rental and the worker settled that case out of court for about $1.2 million, Boyle said.