Adair County Jury Awards Local Farmer $1.458 Million in Combine Accident; Deere & Co., 60% at Fault
Plaintiff Compensated in Product Liability Suit
The plaintiff contended that the combine was defective because it was sold with a push pull electric clutch switch that would operate intermittently allowing the header to come on even though the switch was in the off position. The plaintiff also contended that the combine was defective because it did not have a seat switch safety interlock system to shut the header down if the operator left the seat for more than five seconds. Finally, the plaintiff contended that the combine was defective because the on-product warning was ambiguous in advising the operator to turn off all engine and/or motor power before clearing obstructions from the header. The plaintiff contended that he turned off the motor power when he disengaged the electric clutch switch.
The defendant denied that the combine was defective. The defendant contended that the electromagnetic clutch was at the end of its service life and that as a result the electromagnetic clutch failed and was unable to process the crop into the header. As a result, the header stopped. The defendant contended that the plaintiff failed to turn off the electric clutch switch and that when he cleared some of the crop material, that the electromagnetic clutch was able to have enough power to start up and pulled Mr. Phelps into the cross augur. Once the plaintiff was trapped in the cross augur, then the electromagnetic clutch started slipping again. The defendant denied that the warning was ambiguous. The defendant also contended that the plaintiff violated the instructions in the operator’s manual which instructed the operator to turn off the engine and disengage the separator before clearing obstructions from the header and that had the plaintiff followed the instructions in the operator’s manual, the injury would not have happened. The plaintiff admitted that he had not read the instructions in the operator’s manual.
Plaintiffs’ experts: Herman P. Christopherson, Minneapolis, Minnesota (engineer) and Gregory Della Rocca, MD, Columbia, Missouri (orthopedic surgeon)