Frank Wright, an 88-year-old Virginia resident, dies on December 23, 2010, when his Ryobi ride-on lawnmower exploded while he was using the mower. As a result, Mr. Wright burned to death and a lawsuit against Ryobi and Home Depot ensued. Before trial, both sides remained far apart on a settlement, with Plaintiff’s attorneys demanding $1.4 million and Defendant’s attorneys offering at most $275,000.
At trial, counsel for Plaintiff argued that Ryobi knew that the design of the plastic fuel tank and fuel line connection for the ride-on mowers was insecure and posed a fire hazard. This design flaw led to gasoline spilling out of the fuel tank onto the mower and igniting a fire. Within one year of Plaintiff’s lawn mower purchase, Ryobi produced a fuel tank with a new safer design but never notified consumers of this change. Further, Ryobi denied for two years that other lawn mower fires similar to the one in this case ever happened prior to Plaintiff’s death. Interestingly, new evidence came to light where another Ryobi mower caught fire and burned an Indiana home to the ground five months before the accident occurred in this case. This crucial evidence did not come out until two days before trial. As a result, the Court excluded one of Ryobi’s experts who had testified in a deposition that no other mowers had caught fire. However, this same expert actually investigated this prior mower fire in Indiana and accidentally sent an email revealing this information to Plaintiff’s counsel.
After five days of trial, the Virginia jury returned a $2.5 million verdict in favor Plaintiff, finding that Ryobi was in fact negligent. In addition, the jury found Home Depot was not liable.
There are a variety of safety defects that can affect consumer products and lead to severe injuries for users. We have the experience and technical resources to analyze your case, answer your questions, and pursue the compensation you deserve. If you or a family member has been injured from these machines or some other product in Virginia, contact Portner & Shure for a free legal consultation or if you would like more information on personal injury accidents at (855) 954-4141 or visit us online.