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Justice Affirmed – Court of Appeals Upholds $2.5 Million Jury Verdict in Defective Lawn Mower Wrongful Death Case

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Justice for a family devastated by corporate indifference was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 23, 2016.

A jury sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that Ryobi Technologies, Inc. was negligent in manufacturing a fuel tank and fuel line and that negligence proximately caused the death of Frank Wright while he was operating a Ryobi-branded ride-on lawn mower. The mower exploded engulfing Mr. Wright in flames. The fire was so powerful that Mr. Wright died just moments after the explosion while his wife watched in horror.

The Norfolk, Virginia jury awarded $2.5 million to the Wright estate, which included Mr. Wright’s widow. Ryobi Technologies, Inc. immediately appealed the verdict to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The company argued that it should not be held liable for negligently manufacturing the fuel tank and fuel line because it did not actually manufacture the mower parts (it outsourced manufacturing mowers to a contract-manufacturer). This was a prime example of a corporation attempting to circumvent responsibility and point the finger elsewhere.

On appeal, the attorneys representing the Wright estate – Virginia Beach personal injury lawyer Richard N. Shapiro of Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan and co-counsel Rob Sullivan of Sullivan Law based in Kansas City, Missouri – argued that the verdict should be upheld and that Ryobi Technologies, Inc. is responsible for its mowers under the apparent manufacturer doctrine. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and affirmed the $2.5 million jury verdict in this heart-wrenching defective product wrongful death case.

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