An inherently dangerous product and a safe system of work were
considered by the court.
In these proceedings, the Queensland District Court awarded the
plaintiff in the sum of $194,454.86 for personal injuries in
negligence and as a result of an alleged breach by Makita of
section 75AC in Part VA of the Trade Practices Act. At the time of
the accident the plaintiff was operating a circular saw
manufactured and supplied by the defendant. While using it, his
left hand came into contact with the exposed blade of the circular
In respect of the saw Makita made the following concessions:
the design of the machine was such that a guard should return
to the closed position within 0.3 of a second;
it was a deemed manufacturer of the saw under the Act; and
in relation to the negligence claim, it caused the saw to be
manufactured, and it packaged and marketed the saw.
The court recognised that the saw was inherently dangerous. It
quoted Justice Smithers in Ransley v Black & Decker
(A/Asia) Pty Ltd (1977) 3 TPR 138 at 140; 2 TPC 343 with
"It has to be remembered that this representation
[concerning an electric saw] is not made to all and sundry, to the
dwarfs, to the giants, to the blind, to the deaf – it is
made by reference to the reasonable conditions which must exist in
relation to the operation of any machine of this kind. Obviously it
is a dangerous machine...[W]hen you approach a safety razor you
have to take note that it is sharp and you have to adjust it
accordingly. When it comes to machines like this which are likely
to lop off limbs, anybody knows that great care must be
The plaintiff said that he had adopted a safe system of work in
carrying out the task in hand on the day of the incident. He
alleged that the accident was caused by a design defect in the saw
which the defendant knew or ought to have known.
Makita's submissions included that "the plaintiff
simply does not know the circumstances in which his hand was
injured and is simply inventing a story designed to exculpate
himself from his own inadvertence and to put blame on the defendant
following the fortuitous receipt of a recall notice relating to
this particular saw model."
In the result the court found that when the plaintiff reached a
position in the cutting process between 400mm and 200mm from the
end of the cut, part of the object being cut fell from the
working-bench. The plaintiff instinctively attempted to grab it but
instead grabbed hold of the exposed blade of the saw thereby
suffering serious injuries to his left hand. At that time, however,
the safety guard of the circular saw was jammed or stuck in the
open position and was therefore not able to retract to the closed
position when removed from the cut. This was because the saw had a
design defect, in that it was possible for an operator of the saw
in the normal course of its operation to "jam" or
"stick" the safety guard, either consciously or
unconsciously, in the open position.
Makita also pleaded that "the incident was caused solely by
a deliberate act, negligence or inadvertence on the plaintiff's
part". The court was not persuaded that Makita had discharged
its onus of proof. It found that the plaintiff did not contribute
to his injury in any way.
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