It looks like the long battle for Lanny Stilwell is finally over. The Ontario Court of Appeal earlier this week ruled in favour of Beachville resident Stilwell and his award of $1.15 million in damages after a Visions glass Dutch Oven – a standard cooking item – exploded in his hands while it was rinsing in warm water more than 14 years ago.
The injuries he suffered were horrific, as has been the change in his quality of life since then.
The Dutch oven divided into four razor sharp shards. One of them sliced into his arm at the wrist, severing his radial artery in two places and all of the tendons and nerves connecting to his right hand. He lost 3.5 litres of blood that day, and it took 200 stitches to reattach his hand.
Stilwell said he’s in pain all the time and his doctor has classified him as permanently disabled.
In June 2013, Stilwell won a lawsuit against Corning Inc. and World Kitchen Inc., the manufacturers of the glassware that his lawyer, Michael Smitiuch says has injured 2,000 other people since 1983.
It took more than a decade for the case to get to court in part because Kitchen World went bankrupt and sought Chapter 11 protection in the United States in 2007, just as the trial was to begin.
Stilwell was awarded the damages after a London jury found both companies, co-defendants in the lawsuit, were negligent by not including warning labels with the glass cookware.
The ruling, naturally, was appealed.
“Fourteen years is a long, long haul.” Stilwell said. “I was 44 years old at the time it happened. I’m 58 now.”
Since the injuries occurred, Stilwell hasn’t been able to work as a forklift operator. He and his wife Mickey fell on hard times, just barely keeping body and soul together while fighting off the wolf at their door.
“Yes, we’ve been struggling to pay bills, but that part is over. It’s finally over,” he said. “Man, it’s going to be nice just to be able to pay the bills now.”
“It’s been a long road to justice for the Stilwell family,” Smitiuch said. “Not everyone has the strength and perseverance that it takes to go against a corporation of that size for that long. We’re delighted with the decision.”
The three-judge panel reasoned that if there had been appropriate warning labels on the product, Stilwell’s wife would never have purchased it.
“The law is the law,” Stilwell said of the long journey. “The company had the right to appeal and to do whatever. I think it was prolonged further than it had to be, but this is the end of it now.”
Smitiuch did say the company could appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. They have 30 days from the time of the judgment to do so.