Norton v. Snapper Power Equipment

806 F.2d 1545 (11th Cir. 1987)


Norton (P) was injured while using a riding lawn mower manufactured by Snapper Power Equipment (D). P was in the commercial lawn mowing business and purchased the lawnmower in 1981. P was injured in 1983 when he drove the mower up an incline. The mower began to slide towards a creek, and the brake failed to stop the slid. The mower crashed, and P’s hand was caught in the mower blades, and he lost four fingers. P sued D for damages under product liability. At the close of P's case, and against the close of all evidence, D moved for a directed verdict. The court dismissed P's negligence and warranty claims but allowed the strict liability claim to go to the jury. The strict liability claim was for D’s failure to design a dead man switch to shut the mower down in emergency situations. The jury returned a verdict for P, holding D liable for 80% of the injuries. After dismissing the jury, the court stated that it would enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict; there was no proof that the equipment used in the normal course as it was designed could have had a defect which was the legal cause of the injury. P did not present sufficient evidence that there was a defect in the mower when he purchased it. P appealed.