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Morgan v. International Harvester Co., nka Navistar

Verdict: Confidential

The plaintiff's mother was mowing the lawn with an International Harvester "Cadet" 85 Special, a rear-engine riding lawn mower which was manufactured in l975. After the mower became stuck along the fence, the mother got off her seat without disengaging the manual blade control lever and attempted to move the machine. The plaintiff, a two-year-old boy who had been inside the screened porch, unexpectedly opened the door and wandered into the lawn in front of the mower at the same moment that the mower became dislodged. The mower traveled a few feet before knocking the toddler to the ground and mutilating his left foot and ankle.

The plaintiff alleged that the mower product should have been equipped with a selective “Deadman” safety seat, which causes the engine to automatically kill if the operator leaves the seat without remembering to disengage the manual blade lever. The plaintiff's counsel found industry research that showed that the primary injury to bystanders and riding mower operators was blade contact while the operator was off the seat. The plaintiff's counsel deposed the chief engineers from two industry competitors who testified that a Deadman safety device design was available and used by three competitors in the industry. The plaintiff's counsel found three facsimiles of the Defendant's mower product and had one re-engineered and built with a Deadman safety seat device that eliminated the danger.

This case was the largest settlement from hundreds of cases involving power riding lawn mower accidents and lack of Deadman safety seat switches and is now an industry safety standard.

Morgan v. International Harvester Co., nka Navistar

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