Every year, emergency room administrators report more than 250,000 people receive urgent care after suffering lawn mower injuries – with nearly 7 percent of those being children. May and June are the peak time for these incidents, so it’s a good time for our Birmingham personal injury lawyers to broach the subject, particularly considering that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that the risk of such incidents has risen in recent years.
In Alabama, an 8-year-old boy who was killed in 2010 in Gurley when authorities say he was accidentally run over by his father’s lawn mower. Two years later, a 6-year-old girl in Florence was killed after she fell off a lawn mower she’d been riding on with an adult.
In some cases, operator error or negligence is to blame for such incidents. Other times, faulty product design, manufacturing or failure to warn could cause or contribute to serious or fatal injury.
A recent lawnmower lawsuit in Oregon illustrates the latter In Purdy v. Deere & Company, the Oregon Supreme Court remanded the case back to the appellate court for further consideration, finding the lower court had failed to adequately weigh the plaintiff’s allegations of error by the trial court. A jury found the lawnmower manufacturer not guilty of negligence in a case where a young child had been seriously injured after her father accidentally backed the riding lawnmower into her.
The father argued a design flaw by the manufacturer, as there was a safety override feature that allowed the operator to continue to engage the blade while the lawnmower was in reverse. The child was injured when, unkbenknownst to her father, she had approached the vehicle from behind.
The lawsuit alleged strict liability for negligence because the mower was defective and/or unreasonably dangerous and negligent marketing.
After losing the case, the father appealed, asserting 10 different errors by the trial court. Those included the exclusion of witnesses who could testify about cases in which other children had been injured by lawnmowers moving in reverse. There was also an exclusion about the defendant’s marketing of toy riding mowers to children, crafting customer expectations to indicate the vehicles were safe.
These and other arguments were not considered upon appeal. The state supreme court found that to be a reversible error, and ordered the appellate court to properly consider those claims.
But even in cases where manufactured safety features were removed or not replaced, courts have found that manufacturers may still be at-fault. For example, in the New York case of Hoover v. New Holland N. Am. Inc., that state’s high court found a manufacturer could be liable for injuries sustained by contact with lawn equipment, even though a safety shield on the device had broken and not been replaced by the owner. The court found that while owners do have an obligation to keep their tools in good repair, they also shouldn’t be required to continually replace defective safety components.
When lawnmower injuries in Alabama do occur, they are often serious, even life-threatening. Medical bills can be enormous, and expenses are further compounded by lost wages, ongoing rehabilitation and treatment and other factors.
Purdy v. Deere & Company, April 17, 2014, Oregon Supreme Court
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