Bay Area carpenter gets nail shot through tongue into head, sues nail gun maker

Carpenter’s apprentice Timothy Kahae spent a day and night with a nail stuck through his palate into the base of his skull after the nail gun he was using misfired at a Bay Area construction site, according to his recently filed lawsuit.

Kahae, 28, was fastening down plywood flooring with the nail gun when two nails shot out at once, according to the lawsuit filed Friday against nail gun maker Koki Holdings in San Francisco U.S. District Court.

One nail ricocheted off the other and into his face, tearing open his lip and “lodging itself in Timothy’s tongue and head,” the lawsuit claimed.

Koki Holdings did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In shock, Kahae put the tool down and walked downstairs to report the incident, “bleeding as he went,” according to the lawsuit.

“It became immediately apparent to his co-workers that Timothy required professional medical treatment,” the lawsuit said. He was taken to a nearby Stanford Health clinic for emergency treatment, according to the lawsuit.

Neurosurgery and ear, nose and throat specialists evaluated Kahae, of San Francisco, and determined he would need surgery, but he had to wait till the next day to have the nail taken out, the lawsuit said.

Kahae received multiple surgeries to repair his tongue and palate, nasal septum, and sinuses, and to fix his skull and a fractured jaw, according to the lawsuit.

“Timothy continues to experience numbness in his tongue where the nail went through it, which has led to stuttering,” the lawsuit claimed. “Timothy also is permanently scarred on his lower lip. These needless injuries will continue to plague Timothy for the rest of his young life.”

The incident cost Kahae more than $400,000 in medical bills and nearly $30,000 in lost wages, the lawsuit alleged.

The nail gun was subject to a recall in 2014, the lawsuit claimed. A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recall notice filed as an exhibit with the lawsuit said 25,000 Hitachi Koki pneumatic nailers “can jam and override the safety switch that permits only one nail to fire at a time, posing an injury risk.” Japanese electronics giant Hitachi sold Hitachi Koki in 2017, and the company became Koki Holdings.

According to the lawsuit, Kahae bought the nail gun. His lawyers did not immediately respond to questions about whether he was aware of the recall.

Kahae’s lawsuit alleged that Koki Holdings “failed to provide timely and adequate post-marketing warnings and instructions after they knew the risk of injury posed by their nailers.”

Kahae is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

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