THE LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL
Thursday, May 23, 2002
By Brandy Warren
A Louisville man has been awarded almost $6 million in a lawsuit blaming his leg injury on a defective weed-trimmer head.
On Tuesday, a Jefferson Circuit Court jury awarded Tommy Cook Jr. $5.78 million in actual and punitive damages. The defendant was Sufix U.S.A. Inc., based in High Point, N.C., which made the trimmer head.
The accident occurred on May 19, 1998. According to the complaint Cook filed in 1999, the trimmer head shattered and flew into his leg.
Cook said yesterday that he has not been able to work and that “I’m in pain every day.”
He referred all other questions to his attorney, Tyler Thompson, who said last night that he told the jury that “the product was defective, dangerous and never should have been on the market to begin with.”
Thompson said the original product that went on shelves on March 1, 1998, the Sufix Pro-Edge Square Cut Professional Trimmer Head, had a plastic cap on the head. People complained, however, that the head was shattering on impact, he said.
By April 17, the plastic cap had been replaced by a metal cap, the lawyer said.
“Once they found out Tommy Cook was injured, they recalled it from distributors but made no effort to contact the public,” Thompson said yesterday.
He said about 300 of the trimmer heads were sold before the plastic cap was replaced.
Dudley Shanks, the Louisville attorney for Sufix U.S.A., did not return calls to his office yesterday.
The jury awarded Cook $2.8 million for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. He also was awarded $2.98 million in punitive damages. Both figures were the maximum the jury could award.
Thompson said his client now walks with crutches.
According to Cook’s deposition, he was working for Excello Homes Inc. in Louisville. Assigned to trim grass, he was using the company’s gas powered weed trimmer, which had a new head with three swivel blades.
Cook said he had been trimming for about five minutes when he felt a jolt and then felt something pop into his leg.
“The first thing I saw was my leg opened up, and my first thought was one of them blades flew off,” Cook said in his deposition. “I didn’t have a clue what had happened at that time. When I looked down at my leg, I knew I was seriously injured.”
Cook said in his deposition that it had looked as if his lower right leg had been nearly cut off.
Thompson said one of Cook’s nerves was slashed by the blades and another nerve was crushed.