Lawsuits triggered by nail gun injuries have attorneys suggesting that tool manufacturers conspire to hide the truth.

By Matthew Power

Log on to the Philadelphia-based firm of Monheit, Monheit, Silverman & Fodera (, and you get an earful about nail gun manufacturers--how they suppress information about safety and try to cover up the inherently dangerous coil type, contact-firing guns. Their conclusion: Nail guns "have been shown to be the cause of unnecessary injuries when the design of the gun places emphasis on speed rather than safety."

Tool manufacturers defend their devices, pointing out that cowboy attitudes on the jobsite often negate safety. "A lot of workers, when they use [nail guns], the first thing they do is take off the safety gear," says Todd Langston, spokesperson for Porter-Cable. "Then they sue us when someone gets hurt. They need to take some personal responsibility."

Manufacturers may face even more legal challenges as state supreme courts adopt what is known as product line liability theory, which holds that when a corporation buys another company, it may inherit liabilities for any injuries resulting from latent product defects. Such suits are not always successful, however, because they must demonstrate several criteria, such as whether the new owner is still making a nearly identical product.

Body Shots
Parts of the body most frequently injured by
nail guns in Washington state, 1990­1998
Body Part Frequency Percentage
Finger(s) 1,543 42.7%
Hand 844 23.3%
Foot 215 5.9%
Thigh 167 4.6%
Wrist 139 3.8%
Knee 137 3.8%
Toe(s) 104 2.9%
Lower Leg 66 1.8%
Forearm 64 1.8%
Eye(s) 49 1.4%
Leg(s) Other 48 1.3%
Other 240 6.6%
Total 3,616  

Source: "Pneumatic Nailer Injuries:
A Report on Washington State 1990-1998,"
from Professional Safety Magazine, January 2001