There is an interesting tort lawsuit out of Jackson, Mississippi where Everardo Garfias is suing Husqvarna Professional Products Inc. and Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., the maker of his Husqvarna lawnmower after it ran over him. Garfias had just been attacked by yellow jackets when he jumped off his lawnmower. The lawnmower however did not shut off and ran over him — severely cutting his legs and completely severing one of his knee caps. Garfias was working for a lawn service company at the time of the accident.
Kawasaki is seeking a transfer to federal court, presumably on diversity grounds since the company is from a different state.
Often these cases involved defenses of substantial alteration over the years of use and work on a machine. However one report states that Garfias bought the lawnmower less than two months before the accident — making such defenses more difficult. There is also misuse as a defense but foreseeable misuse is considered a legitimate basis for a product liability action in the United States.
These cases can still turn on plaintiff’s conduct question if there was something on the machine that caused it to continue to run. Yet, he will likely argue that there is a design defect in not having a better kill switch system that shuts down the machine if there is no operator. Yellow jackets, debris, and other dangers are common reasons for people to stop mowing. It is therefore foreseeable that such sudden stops will occur in the operation of a mower.
We will try to follow the case, though it could be a couple years from any verdict with a transfer to federal court. Companies tend to prefer federal courts where the judges are viewed by many lawyers as a bit more conservative on tort cases.