Dangerous Lawn Mower Design Amputates Toddler’s Leg​

manufacturer Knew For Decades That Its Riding Lawn Mower was “Unreasonably Dangerous”

Izzy was two-and-a-half-years-old in 2006 and happily playing with her cousins during a family get-together. In an instant, her left leg was caught up in the blades of a Deere riding lawnmower operated by her father. Her leg was mangled, and chopped off, leaving her a lifelong amputee.

How could this have happened? Who was responsible? Deere & Company argued it was lack of supervision by her father and by her cousin, who had been charged with watching the younger children while the adults were preparing for the family gathering. Deere also blamed her father for not paying more attention as he was mowing with children around the house.

Corson & Johnson quickly discovered that Izzy’s case was really more about a defective product, or product liability. When many thousands of children are injured in riding lawn mowers “accidents” every year, the reasons begin to point squarely to the manufacturers. Evidence revealed that inexpensive changes to riding lawn mowers would spare many children. In this case, Deere knew about the product defect for over two decades and failed to fix it.

After Two Jury Trials, JURY SAYS IZZY DESERVES Justice

Product Liability cases can take a lot longer because manufacturers are not exactly forthcoming about their mistakes. The first trial of Izzy’s case in 2009 found in favor of Deere. However, an appeals court subsequently remanded the case for a new trial because the jury was given incorrect instructions about the law.  Later, it was discovered that Deere had hidden evidence about the defect and how to fix it during the first trial.

In the second trial in Lane County Circuit Court in 2018, the uncovered evidence about Deere’s equipment defects was brought to light and the jury assessed a $12.25 million verdict. The jury assessed $9.5 million against Deere & Co. for designing and selling a riding lawn mower that was defective and unreasonably dangerous. Izzy’s father, who was operating the mower, was assessed $2.7 million.

“Riding lawn mowers are the leading cause of amputation injuries to young children.  Most of these are easily preventable. We hope this verdict causes all mower manufacturers to re-design or re-equip these machines with readily available safety features,” said one of Izzy’s attorneys, Don Corson.

Defective and Unreasonably Dangerous Lawn Mower

Evidence presented to jurors in the second trial included documents and testimony showing:

  • Riding lawn mowers continue to be the leading cause of amputations to children’s toes, feet and legs; 66% occur as mowers are backing up.
  • Deere’s residential riding mowers are the only ones on the market that require the operator to push a button in front with the blades still running in order to back up.
  • Deere’s residential riding mowers are considered the most visually distracting and visually restrictive in the industry, according to safety experts.
  • Deere management rejected recommendations from its own engineers that its riding lawn mowers be equipped with mirrors, better blade guards, or sensors to prevent amputations.
  • Deere’s management added a feature, opposed by some of its engineers, that kept the blades spinning when the lawnmower backed up.
  • Deere’s management rejected adding a back-up sensor to its riding mowers because it would add an extra $13.50 per lawn mower.
  • Deere riding lawn mowers have been involved in 49% of child back-over amputations by mowers, a much higher rate than would be expected based on the company’s share of the market.

Jury Verdict to Help Pay Massive Medical Expenses

The money from the jury verdict will help pay for the numerous prosthetics Izzy will require and an estimated 14 more surgeries she’ll need, along with physical therapy and living assistance, said Lara Johnson, co-counsel in Izzy’s case.

“Nothing can ever fully compensate her for the pain she’s suffered and the ongoing pain and other challenges she faces as an amputee,” she said.

“Unfortunately, these dangerous riding mowers are still for sale. Consumers should be aware and do their research before buying any riding mower,” she added.

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