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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawnmower Maker Not at Fault for Tragic Accident

(CN) - The maker and seller of a lawnmower that backed over a toddler, causing severe injuries, cannot be held liable, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled.

Kirk Norton was using a Deer riding lawnmower in May 2006 when he decided to put the machine in reverse. Though the mower cuts power to the blades in reverse mode, users can override the feature and keep the blades spinning with the simple push of a button.

Norton pressed the button and looked over his right shoulder, but he did not notice that his 2-year-old daughter Eve approached his blind spot on the left.

Eve survived the accident but lost a leg.

Her conservator, Dwight Purdy, sued Deere & Co. and Ramsey-Waite Co., which had sold the mower to Norton. The complaint said Deere had manufactured a defective product and that both companies failed to warn users about the defect.

Deere and Ramsey-Waite countered that Norton's use of the button did not make the accident worse.

Even if Norton had not pressed the override button, momentum allegedly would have kept the blades for several more seconds - enough time to injure baby Eve.

A Lane County jury ruled for the companies, and the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday.

"Norton testified that he did not read the instructions that were provided; the jury permissibly could have inferred from the testimony that no amount of additional instructions would have prevented the accident," Judge David Schuman wrote for a three-member panel.

"The accident would have happened even if there were no override option," he added. "Plaintiff did not meet his burden of establishing that the jury did not reach its verdict on that basis."

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