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ARTICLE ID 195030

$________ – PRODUCT LIABILITY – DEFECTIVE DESIGN – DECEDENT WAS BURNED TO DEATH ON RIDE-ON MOWER – DEFECTIVELY DESIGNED PLASTIC FUEL TANK AND INSECURE FUEL LINE CONNECTION CAUSED LINE TO SEPARATE AND FUEL TO IGNITE

USDC, Eastern District of Virginia

In this product liability matter, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s ride on mower was defectively designed in that the fuel line could become separated from the fuel tank, resulting in a fire explosion that ignited the plaintiff’s decedent and caused his death. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was aware of the defective nature of the plastic fuel tank, and line yet failed to recall the product or warn consumers. The defendant denied liability and maintained that the plaintiff was plowing leaves with the mower, and his misuse of the mower was the cause of the fire and his resulting death.

On December 23, ________, the 88-year-old male decedent was operating his Ryobi ride on lawn mower that he had purchased from Home Depot in ________. While the decedent was operating the mower, there was an explosion, with the mower and decedent catching fire. The decedent attempted to crawl away from the mower, however he burned to death as a result of intensity of the explosion. The plaintiff’s investigation disclosed that the defendant’s mower contained a plastic fuel tank, and connecting fuel line. The fuel line disconnected from the tank and fuel leaked down into the mower body, causing it to ignite and explode. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant, Ryobi, was aware of the dangerous nature of its fuel tank design, and had, in fact, replaced fuel tanks for the consumers of that mower that complained about the leaking. The plaintiff contended that despite being aware of the dangerous nature of the fuel tank, the defendant did not initiate a recall, and did not warn consumers who purchased that particular model of mower of the fuel tank issue. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendants on theories of dangerous design, failure to inspect or test properly, failure to warn, and a breach of the implied warranty.

The defendants denied liability, and disputed that their product was dangerous.

The defendants contended that the plaintiff’s decedent was misusing the mower by using it to plow leaves. The defendants argued that this misuse resulted or contributed to the decedent’s injuries and death. The defendants also disputed the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and damages, arguing that the decedent’s advanced age and medical history resulted in a diminished life expectancy and entitlement to damages.

The matter proceeded to trial over a period of five days.At the conclusion of the five day trial, the jury deliberated over two partial days and returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that it was negligent. The jury awarded the sum of $________ in damages to the plaintiff. The jury did not find that the Ryobi breached its warranty, and did not find liability on the part of Home Depot, who sold the mower to the plaintiff’s decedent.

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