WEST PALM BEACH — When a Home Depot executive was told inventor Michael Powell might have a claim against the hardware giant for stealing an invention that keeps store employees safe, his reaction was swift and vulgar.
"(Expletive) Michael Powell," the executive said. "Let him sue us."
The crass response typifies the company's attitude toward Powell, who crafted an simple, yet ingenious, way to keep Home Depot employees from slicing off their fingers while they're cutting wood for customers, a federal judge said Monday.
"Home Depot knew exactly what it was doing," U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley said. "They simply pushed Mr. Powell away and they did it totally and completely for their own economic benefit."
Calling the company callous and arrogant, he ordered it to pay the former Boca Raton man $3 million in punitive damages. That's on top of the $15 million a jury in March said the company should pay him for stealing his so-called "Safe Hands" gadget that is now affixed to radial saws at nearly 2,000 Home Depots nationwide.