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Man Paralyzed In Nail-Gun Accident Receives $15.35 Million

April 7, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ A man who was paralyzed when he was hit by a nail from a high-speed nail gun as he sat in a barber’s chair will receive $15.35 million in one of the largest lump-sum damage payments in U.S. history, attorneys said Wednesday.

The settlement, reached during the second day of a U.S. District Court trial, ends the nearly 2-year-old suit filed by Eugene Doran and his family against Taylor Rental Corp., its Andover franchise and the manufacturers of the nail-gun.

Doran’s spinal cord was severed on April 15, 1986, by a three-inch nail shot by a worker installing a storage chest in a liquor store next to Coco’s Barbershop in Andover, where Doran was having his hair cut.

Doran, 40, was instantly rendered a quadriplegic by the accident, said one of his attorneys, James Meehan.

″Here’s a guy who came through Vietnam and the Tet offensive unscathed, only to be shot down while having his hair cut,″ said Meehan.

Leo Boyle, another attorney for Doran, said the suit cited Taylor and a Taylor franchise in Andover for renting the gun after company headquarters ordered the units destroyed because of 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, thinking he was working on a concrete-backed wall, 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, which can drive nails at 700 feet per second, are no longer produced in the United States, although low-velocity nail-guns are still in use, said Boyle.

No charges were filed against the worker, an uninsured part-time carpenter, Boyle said.

Doran, who has been at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston since the accident, said he will use a portion of the settlement to modify his home with lifts and ramps. He said he expects to leave the hospital in several weeks.

″I’m just very relieved that one item - a very important item - if off our shoulders,″ said Doran, who was accompanied by his wife, Kathy, at the news conference. The couple have three children.

Doran said he is frustrated at times, but ″I really have never had much anger ... maybe because it was an accident. I couldn’t even tell you the man’s name who did it.″

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.

Taylor, based in New Britain, Conn., 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.

Attorneys for the defendants had left the office and could not be reached for comment after business hours Wednesday. Telephone calls made after business hours to the four companies also went unanswered.

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