When Michael Powell invented a device called ‘Safe Hands’ that protected workers from slicing off their fingers while cutting wood at Home Depot, he offered to sell his invention to the company at $2,000 per installed protector. Instead, Home Depot executives stole his invention, duplicated the device, and installed it at 2,000 stores. One arrogant Home Depot executive, when confronted that the invention belonged to Powell, stated ‘F**k Michael Powell, let him sue us.’ And that is exactly what Powell did.
A recent news article states:
The crass response typifies the company’s attitude toward Powell, who crafted a 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.
The damages for Home Depot don’t end there. Hurley also ordered the firm to pay Powell’s attorneys the $2.8 million they say they are owed, and to pay Powell an estimated $1 million in interest annually on the judgment. The interest began building in 2006 and will continuing accruing until Home Depot pays up.
The roughly $25 million judgment could have been avoided had the company agreed in 2004 to pay Powell the $2,000 he offered to charge for each device. That bill would have come to $4 million.
I would venture a guess that the Home Depot executive will still get a hefty bonus, despite his arrogant behavior that cost the company money. After all, that does seem to be the way corporate America functions!