Earlier this month, a federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a product liability case filed against a ride-on lawnmower manufacturer. In the case, Parks v. Ariens, the court held that the defendant manufacturer was not negligent in failing to install a roll-over protection system (ROPS) on a ride-on lawnmower because it offered the ROPS as optional equipment at an additional cost.
In 2006, Parks purchased a used ride-on lawnmower from a licensed dealer. At the time of the purchase, the roll-over-protection system, which consisted of a roll-cage and seatbelt, was optional equipment that a buyer could purchase at an additional cost. When Parks was discussing the purchase of the mower with the defendant’s salesperson, the salesperson discussed the type of terrain where Parks would be using the mower. While the salesperson did not recall whether he offered the ROPS package to Parks, he did testify that it was his common practice to always ask if the customer wanted the package.
Parks decided to purchase the mower but not to add the ROPS. About seven years after the purchase date, Parks was killed when the mower rolled, trapping him underneath. His wife filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the lawn mower. She claimed that the manufacturer was negligent in failing to install the ROPS on the mower before selling it to her husband.
The Court’s Analysis
The court’s ultimate task was to determine if the manufacturer was negligent. The defendant claimed that it was not negligent to leave the decision of whether the ROPS was necessary to the buyer, who would have a more intimate knowledge of the terrain where the mower would be used. The plaintiff claimed that it is the manufacturer’s duty to ensure that its products are safe, and it is not up to a buyer to install an additional system in order to make a product safe.
The court found in favor of the defendant. The court explained that there was no evidence presented that the lawnmower was unsafe for use on flat land. Therefore, if a buyer was going to use the mower on sloped surfaces, it would be up to the buyer to determine if the ROPS was necessary. Thus, the manufacturer was not negligent in leaving the decision of whether to purchase the ROPS to the buyer.
Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The optional equipment doctrine is very fact-specific and will not apply in all cases. Some safety systems are required in order to make a product safe, and others may be seen as optional. That is ultimately a decision that will be left to a judge or jury. A dedicated personal injury attorney may be able to help you convince the judge that the product that injured you was unsafe, despite any available add-ons, and that the manufacturer should be held liable. If successful, you may be entitled to a substantial monetary award. Call 888-765-7411 today to set up a free consultation with an attorney from the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson.
Statutes of Limitations in Indiana Medical Malpractice Cases, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, August 4, 2016
Appellate Court Denies Insurance Company’s Jurisdictional Challenge to Accident Victim’s Lawsuit, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 13, 2016