In this troubling case, our client purchased a commercial zero turn radius (ZTR) mower to cut the grass on his five acre parcel of land in Astor, Florida. One day, our client set out to mow his grass, but as he traveled about 100 feet, he smelled gasoline. He looked to his left and saw gas spraying under pressure beneath his seat and next to one of the gas tanks. Recognizing the serious danger of the situation, he turned off the mower and lifted his weight from the seat to leave the area. However, as his weight shifted off the seat, the seat-activated engine kill switch activated and created a spark. This spark immediately ignited the gasoline that had sprayed and vaporized. Our client was engulfed in a huge fireball that serious burned him and the machine.
In total, our client was burned with first and second degree burns over 20 percent of his body, including his face, neck, arms, and hands. In fact, the only places on his upper body that were not burned were those areas covered by his shirt at the time of the fire. Following the fire, the burns blistered severely and required an excruciatingly painful process known as debridement to remove the dead tissue in order to prevent infection and promote healing. The debridement consisted of daily removal of dead tissue by picking it off with tweezers and by scrubbing the burned areas with an abrasive pad and hydrogen peroxide solution. As you might imagine, the burns, and subsequent debridements were exceptionally painful for our client, who suffered great pain-even with narcotic pain medications.
During our investigation into the fire, we discovered that this manufacturer has had other similar mowers either catch fire or explode as a result of similar problems. In fact, in late 2006 a jury awarded the family of a South Carolina man $6,000,000.00 as a result of an explosion that killed him while he was riding one of this company’s mowers. Clearly, this company was aware of significant problems with its products that caused serious injury and death.