This tragic case involved a specific type of commercial lawnmower called a zero turn radius (ZTR) mower. These mowers a fast, turn on a dime, and are top heavy. Several years after their debut, manufacturers began to receive reports of the mowers overturning and causing deaths and serious injuries. Many manufacturers acted quickly and responsibly, but not all.
Our client was killed when his ZTR lawnmower overturned near the edge of a residential pond and pinned him under a mere 2 feet of water where he suffered fatal brain damage while rescuers tried to free him from beneath the 1500 pound machine. The manufacturer defectively designed the mower by failing to include a roll bar to prevent the mower from pinning users if the machine rolled over. Competitors had been offering roll bars for years and conducting recalls to retrofit their earlier models with the new safety feature—so lives could be saved. However, this particular company quietly made roll bars standard equipment on mowers it delivered 60 days after the machine in question was purchased, but refused to conduct any recall or retrofit program to protect the users of its product. In fact, the company didn’t even tell customers roll bars were available.
The evidence amassed against the manufacturer showed that virtually every other major manufacturer of similar mowers made roll bars standard equipment years earlier and conducted recalls, retrofits, and customer education in an effort to protect people when they learned of the problems with the mowers. Our defendant chose not to protect users of its products and our client paid the ultimate price. A roll bar would have allowed him to walk away–wet but alive.