Design defect of pipe-grooving power tool claimed. $3.97M. San Francisco County.


Apprentice is injured on job site, says defective tool was to blame.

The Case

  • Case Name: Velasquez v. Ridge Tool Company
  • Court and Case Number: San Francisco Superior Court / CGC-19-576647
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, May 02, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, June 12, 2019
  • Type of Case: Products Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Suzanne R. Bolanos
  • Plaintiffs:
    Colby Velasquez, 40
  • Defendants:
    Ridge Tool Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $3,970,893.94
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Plaintiff: 10%; Defendant: 20%; Plaintiff's employer: 70%.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical expense: $83,893.94

    Past lost earnings/earning capacity: $287,000

    Future lost earnings/earning capacity: $2,100,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $1,000,000

    Future: $500,000 

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 9 court days (arguments and evidence phase)
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 13 hours

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Sisneros Graziani LLP by Brian Graziani, San Francisco.

    Law Office of Ted W. Pelletier by Ted Pelletier, San Anselmo.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Hennelly & Grossfeld LLP by Paul Martin, Marina del Rey.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Rudolph Buntic, M.D., hand surgery

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Maria Brady, vocational rehabilitation.

    Robert Johnson, economics.

    Leslie "Chip" Lindley, sprinkler fitting.

    Scott Buske, PE, mechanical engineering.

    John Etherton, PhD, industrial engineer, occupational safety, human factors.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Erick Knox, PhD, PE, mechanical engineering.

    Eric Drabkin, Ph.D., economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff lost portions of his index, middle, and ring fingers on his left hand (non-dominant) in a construction site accident while working as an apprentice sprinkler fitter in the construction of the Chase Center arena, in San Francisco. He was injured while using a pipe-grooving power tool designed and manufactured by the defendant.

    The plaintiff pursued a case against his employer under the “Power Press Exception” to the “Exclusive Remedy Rule,” which case resolved before trial.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the guarding mechanism and related warnings were defective in design, and failed to adequately warn.  That defendant was negligent in the design of the product.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the product was low risk, not defective, and not negligently designed.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $83,893.94
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $287,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $2,100,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $999,999
  • Defendant §998 Offer: Waiver of costs.

Additional Notes

Plaintiff presented three strict liability theories: (1) design defect – risk/benefit, (2) design defect – consumer expectations, (3) strict liability failure to warn) as well as negligence to the jury and prevailed on all four causes of action.