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Defective Mower Injury Claims – Can You Sue

Defective Mower Injury Claims – Can You Sue

A man mowing a lawn

In this article, we’ll break down the following:

A lawnmower might seem like a harmless piece of garden equipment, and it is, for the most part. However, it does have the potential to cause serious harm.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 35,000 people annually sustain mower-related injuries, including 90 reported deaths. Many of these incidents can be attributed to defects in the design and manufacturing of the lawnmower.

If you or a loved one is injured by a defective lawnmower, can you sue? Here’s everything you need to know about defective mower injury claims.

Defective Mower Injury Claims – Definition

Zero-turn mowers, walk-behind mowers, riding lawnmowers, and their associated attachments can potentially cause serious injuries to the user. Many of these injuries are the result of design and manufacturing defects.

Any company that designs, manufactures, or sells a defective mower may be liable for injuries victims sustain from using faulty or unsafe equipment. There are several ways in which defective mowers can harm users.

For instance, if the switch malfunctions, the mower should have a safety component built into the handle to disengage the cutting blade. If the switch malfunctions and the safety device fails or is absent entirely, the mower can cause serious injuries to the user. Likewise, if the mower blows up or catches fire, the user is at risk for severe burn injuries.

If a design or manufacturing flaw is the reason for your injuries, you can file a product liability claim against the lawnmower company and recover compensation for your injuries. The defendants in product liability cases aren’t limited to the designer or manufacturer of the product alone. Depending on their role in sustaining injuries, you can also sue the distributor, supplier, seller, marketer, or repairer.

Common Types of Mower Defects

The CPSC has set safety standards governing the design and manufacture of lawnmowers. Failure to meet and adhere to these standards when the lawnmower goes on the market is considered a defect in and of itself.

For instance, some of the safety requirements walk-behind mowers are required to meet include:

  • The installation of an automatic brake switch that disengages the blade when the user lets go of the handle;
  • A foot shield at the back of the mower to protect the user’s feet from the blade;
  • A warning label that cautions users to keep their hands and feet a safe distance away from the discharge chute;
  • A certification label tells prospective buyers that the mower meets the blade safety standards defined by the CPSC.

Some common types of mower defects include:

  • Absent or inadequate warning labels
  • Defective belts
  • Defective fuel systems that pose fire hazards
  • Faulty blades
  • Faulty or absent safety mechanisms
  • Improper assembly
  • Improperly balanced riding mowers that tip over easily
  • Malfunctioning controls
  • Overheating or exploding mower motors
  • Poor quality materials or inferior parts that fail
  • Unclear, inaccurate, or incomplete instructions

Common Types of Injuries Caused by Defective Mowers

Defective mowers can cause serious and, sometimes, fatal injuries. Objects thrown by the mower, tip-overs, and blade contact are three of the most common causes of user injuries.

Some defects even cause mowers to explode or catch on fire, even when not operational, inflicting grievous harm to the user and property.

Here are some common types of injuries caused by defective mowers:

  • Amputations
  • Burns
  • Crush injuries
  • Eye injuries, some of which may result in blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Severe cuts and lacerations
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other forms of blunt force trauma, from getting struck by rocks thrown by the blades

Liability in Defective Mower Injury Claims

Liability in defective mower injury claims is assigned based on how the victim sustained the injury. If the injuries resulted from a defective mower, the injured party can file a product liability claim against the faulty equipment’s designer, manufacturer, distributor, or seller.

To prove that the mower was defective, you would have to show that:

  1. The mower malfunctioning caused your injuries: The equipment, through no fault of your own, behaved in a way that caused you to sustain harm.
  2. Your injuries stemmed from the mower’s poor design: The equipment lacked adequate safety features that would have otherwise protected you from harm.

On the other hand, if you were harmed due to someone else’s negligent actions, they would be liable for your injuries.

For instance, suppose your neighbor was mowing their backyard, and you happened to be doing yard work as well. If your neighbor’s mower’s discharge chute happened to be pointed in your direction as they went by and, in the process, launched a small rock that struck you in the head, they would be liable for your injuries.

You would be within your rights to file a personal injury claim against them to recover damages for your injuries.

Finally, you could get injured by a mower due to your own negligent actions. For instance, if you pulled a mower toward you and injured your feet in the process. In such cases, you would be liable for your own injuries and would not be able to recover compensation from any other party.

Examples of Products That Caused Mower Injuries

Overheating or Exploding Mower Motors

  • A brand-new mower spontaneously exploded, sending flying debris in all directions. The user, who had stepped away to grab a fire extinguisher, was hit in the ankle by some debris. As she sprayed down the flames, the battery exploded a second time.

Faulty Safety Mechanisms

  • The safety switch and deadman’s switch of an electric lawnmower both malfunctioned, causing the mower to start up when neither switch was pressed. As the user mowed, they released the deadman’s switch to keep the mower still as they moved something in their yard. The mower slowed down briefly before speeding up again until it reached full speed.
  • A mower would start independently and wouldn’t turn off when the operator released the safety bar. It could only be shut off by removing the entire battery or disengaging the red key near the battery.
  • The blades on a riding lawnmower did not stop turning even with the power switch in the off position. The user reported injuring their hand and finger from an object ricocheting off the spinning blade as they got off the parked mower.

Inferior Parts That Fail

  • The rear wheel of a power lawnmower broke off the axle and came off, causing the mower and, subsequently, its operator to lose balance and fall to the ground. The user sustained an injury to their right shoulder upon impact.

Florida Case Law on Defective Product Claims

Product liability action, as defined by Florida Statutes 768.81(1)(d), is a civil lawsuit based on the legal theory of strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty for injuries and damages resulting from the design, manufacture, construction, assembly, installation, formulation, or preparation of a product.

There are three main ways in which a defective product can cause injuries to the user:

  • Design defect: This refers to a flaw in the design or formula of a product that renders it harmful for its intended purpose.
  • Manufacturing defect: This refers to an error in the manufacturing, construction, or assembly of a product that makes it unsafe to use.
  • Failure to warn: This refers to a failure to provide the consumer with adequate warnings and instructions associated with using the product.

To prove cause in a defective product claim through the legal premise of strict liability, the plaintiff needs to show (prove) that:

  1. There is/was an existing relationship between the defendant and the product in question;
  2. The product had a defect;
  3. The defect made the product unreasonably dangerous for its intended use; and
  4. The defective product was the proximate cause of the injuries sustained.

The plaintiff would have to demonstrate that the defendant failed to meet the existing federal safety standards for consumer products under the Consumer Protection Safety Act. The applicable safety standards for walk-behind power lawnmowers are detailed in Title 16, Chapter II, Subchapter B, Part 1205 of the Act.

It is worth noting that other applicable safety standards may be governed by other federal regulatory bodies, including, but not limited to, the CPSC, OSHA, and the EPA.

On the other hand, to prove cause through the legal theory of negligence, the burden rests on the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were negligent, causing them (the victim) to suffer harm.

Florida Case Law Related to Defective Mowers

Norton v. Snapper Power Equip., 806 F.2d 1545 (11th Cir. 1987)

Issue: Plaintiff James Norton brought a product liability action against Snapper Power Equipment for injuries he sustained while using a riding lawnmower manufactured by the defendant.

In his complaint, Norton alleges to have been riding his lawnmower up an incline to clear leaves from a yard next to a nearby creek when the mower began to slide backward. He testified that the brakes on the mower failed, causing it to crash into the creek. The impact knocked him off his seat, and his hand was caught in the mower’s blades, amputating four fingers.

Norton sued Snapper on strict liability grounds alleging that the company’s lawnmower was defective due to the lack of a deadman’s switch that would have automatically stopped the blades.

Result: The jury found in favor of Norton, holding the defendant liable for 80% of the injuries the plaintiff sustained. It assigned 20% fault to Norton for operating the lawnmower on too steep of an incline and too close to a creek.

However, the court entered its own judgment in favor of Snapper, notwithstanding the verdict delivered by the jury. In its ruling, the court stated that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the mower crashing into the lake as opposed to an inherent defect in the equipment.

Norton objected to the court’s decision to overturn the jury’s verdict. He contended that the evidence he presented to the jury was sufficient to support that the lawnmower was indeed defective and that the defect was the proximate cause of his injuries.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Norton and reversed the district court’s judgment. The case was remanded with instructions that judgment be entered in favor of the plaintiff.

Sackrin & Tolchinsky: Background

Alan Sackrin and Larry Tolchinsky have more than six decades of combined legal experience in civil litigation, arbitration, mediation, and appeals in a wide range of practice areas, including:

  • Catastrophic car accidents
  • Wrongful Death
  • Slip and Falls
  • Insurance claims/denials
  • All other serious personal injury claims

The firm is committed to giving clients world-class legal representation for the best possible outcome in their legal issues. Sackrin & Tolchinsky employs the latest technology to minimize service delivery costs and offer personalized expert help for fast and fair resolutions to legal matters.

Sackrin & Tolchinsky’s Experience as Injury Claims Lawyers

Alan Sackrin has extensive legal experience representing clients injured by defective products. He has single-handedly taken on some of the most complex personal injury cases, including those other firms consider hard to win, and helped victims recover the compensation they deserve.

One notable case Alan handled was a $650,000 recovery for a man who was severely injured at a construction site. In the incident, the man was brutally struck by a large hose that had dried-up cement inside. As the hose was being cleaned with pressurized water to force the cement out, it recoiled rapidly and, in the process, struck the worker causing severe injuries.

Get Legal Help

If you or a loved one has been injured by what you deem to be a defective mower, speak to a product liability attorney as soon as possible while the events are still fresh in your mind.

Sackrin & Tolchinsky attorneys have extensive experience representing injured victims of defective products. They have the knowledge and expertise to help you prove your case and obtain the settlement you deserve.

Get in touch with us for a free case evaluation to discuss the legal options available to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps should I take if I am injured due to a defective mower?

If you have suffered harm from what you believe was a defective mower, here’s what you should do:

  1. Seek immediate medical care for your injuries.
  2. Preserve evidence, including the defective mower itself, and remember to document everything, including your medical records.
  3. Consult an experienced product liability lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of your case.
  4. Identify what type of defective mower injury claim you have. Was it the result of a design defect, manufacturing defect, or failure to warn?
  5. Identify all the liable parties in your claim.
  6. Determine your damages.

What kind of damages can I recover in a defective mower injury claim?

You can recover compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses incurred
  • Projected costs of any future medical care you might require
  • Lost wages if your injuries caused you to miss work or if your ability to work has been impaired
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Wrongful death

What is the statute of limitations for filing a defective mower injury claim in Florida?

The statute of limitation for product liability cases based on strict liability is 4 years. For product liability cases based on negligence, please call us to discuss, as a recent statutory change in the law has caused uncertainty to the limitations period.

What are common lawnmower injuries?

Defective lawnmowers can result in severe injuries, including:

  • Amputations
  • Burns
  • Crush injuries
  • Eye injuries, some of which may result in blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Severe cuts and lacerations
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other forms of blunt force trauma from getting struck by rocks ejected by the blades

How do lawnmower injuries happen?

Objects thrown by the mower, tip-overs, and blade contact are three of the most common causes of user injuries. Mower injuries can also result from product defects such as:

  • Absent or inadequate warning labels
  • Defective belts
  • Defective fuel systems that pose fire hazards
  • Faulty blades
  • Faulty or absent safety mechanisms
  • Improper assembly
  • Improperly balanced riding mowers that tip over easily
  • Malfunctioning controls
  • Overheating or exploding mower motors
  • Poor quality materials or inferior parts that fail

Do You Have A Question? Call Alan Sackrin Today For a Free Case Evaluation

As a Board-Certified Civil Trial Expert for over 40+ years, Alan Sackrin has extensive experience with product liability lawsuits. He offers a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions. When you’re ready to speak with an expert civil trial lawyer about your product liability case, call Alan at 945-458-8655.