A Virginia federal jury returned a $2.5 million verdict against Ryobi Technologies Inc. last month. The jury made the award to the widow of a man killed when his lawnmower exploded. But the jury found in favor of Home Depot Inc., a Defendant in the case. The jury found that Ryobi, the maker of the lawnmower that exploded in December 2010, fatally burning Frank Wright while he was cleaning up his yard, was guilty of negligence, but not of breaching an implied warranty.
The lawsuit was filed in December 2012 in Virginia state court. The dispute was removed to federal court in 2013. The Plaintiff said Wright was operating the lawnmower under normal conditions when it suddenly exploded, causing a fire that badly burned him. Wright died from his injuries.
It was alleged in the complaint that neither Ryobi nor Home Depot, where Wright bought the lawnmower, warned Wright about the potential risks of explosion. Ryobi didn’t warn customers that the lawnmower could unexpectedly explode under normal operating procedures. The jury considered two claims:
• whether the Defendants were negligent in making and selling a lawnmower that would explode when mowing lawns; and
• whether the Defendants breached an implied warranty.
Home Depot and Ryobi had argued that the Plaintiff didn’t carry his burden to show that the lawn tractor was defectively designed, and that the alleged defect — a separation of the fuel line from the fuel tank — was more likely than not the specific cause of the deadly fire. The Plaintiff was represented by Richard N. Shapiro and Patrick J. Austin of Shapiro Lewis Appleton & Duffan.
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