$1.34 Million Settlement for Municipal Worker Crushed to Death by Runaway Lawnmower

Worker crushed to death by runaway

Published: December 30th, 2010

A 54-year-old municipal worker was cutting grass using a commercial lawnmower. He parked the mower on a relatively flat surface and got off to have a snack. A co-worker observed him set the parking brake. After several minutes, the mower began to roll.

Both workers ran after the mower to try to stop it from entering a nearby road. The one worker lost his footing and the mower ran over him, crushing him to death.

When the mower was first inspected several months after the incident, it was discovered that one of the two parking brake cables was broken. The plaintiff presented expert testimony that the parking brake cable failed due to corrosion.

The parking brake cable had been covered in a protective anti-corrosion coating, which ended approximately 1 inch before the cable's insertion into a strand-end fitting, thus exposing the last inch of the cable to corrosive materials.

Plaintiff's experts testified that it would have been technologically and financially feasible to extend the coating of the cable into the strand-end fitting, and that if that had been done the cable would not have failed.

The defendant's expert testified that the cable did not fail due to corrosion, but had been deliberately cut in order to free up a frozen brake.

The plaintiff settled with the manufacturer of the parking brake cable and with the retail seller of the mower prior to trial. After a three-week trial against the manufacturer of the mower, the parties reached a settlement while the jury was deliberating.

Action: Products liability

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death

Case name: Withheld

Court/case no.: Withheld

Jury and/or judge: N/A (settled)

Amount: $1.34 million

Date: Oct. 8, 2010

Attorneys: Ralph F. Sbrogna and Roger J. Brunelle, Brunelle & Donius, Worcester (for the plaintiff)

*Complete URL: http://masslawyersweekly.com/2010/12/30/worker-crushed-to-death-by-runaway/