Home Depot, John Deere named in child's lawn mower accident suit

Ann Knef Jun. 25, 2008, 5:56am

John Deere Co. and Home Depot, Inc. are being sued by the family of a three-year-old boy who was severely injured when his father backed over him with a lawn mower that had a reverse mowing feature.

Connor Jack Nicklin suffered a full thickness laceration extending from his left upper thigh to below his knee with his femur protruding when the accident happened March 25, 2007, according to a suit filed June 19 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

His father Corey Nicklin was operating a L120 John Deere mower 2005 model purchased from the O'Fallon Home Depot store, the complaint states. He was mowing the family lawn near the family pond at which time he used the mower's reverse implement option (RIO).

Michelle Nicklin, Connor's mother, bought the mower on April 10, 2005.

"Unknown to Corey Nicklin, Plaintiff, who was three years old at the time of the subject incident, was located behind the subject lawn mower," the complaint states.

"While mowing in reverse with the RIO system, Corey Nicklin unintentionally and inadvertently backed over Plaintiff."

Connor Nicklin's left second, third and great toes were amputated, he suffered an abrasion to his left chest and he is missing 60 percent of the circumference of his left leg, the complaint states.

"Also, as a result of the subject incident, Plaintiff walks with decreased stance and increased hip hike and incrased swing on the left," the complaint states. "Plaintiff also suffered mental and emotional damages."

He has undergone several surgeries, skin grafts and physical therapy and wears a leg brace, the complaint states.

In order to mow in reverse, the operator must fully depress the reverse pedal while at the same time pressing the RIO button located on the front left of the dash board, the complaint states.

The Nicklins claim the mower was defectively designed in that it was manufactured with the RIO feature. They also claim the RIO system is located in a place that "inhibits the operator from looking behind him or her before mowing in reverse."

"The subject lawn mower is defectively designed in that it should have been designed in a manner that does not allow for the mower to be operated with its blades moving in reverse," the complaint states.

Represented by Amy Collignon Gunn of Simon Passante in St. Louis, the plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $250,000 in damages.

The Nicklins claim the mower was defective for not possessing a sensor and alarm system that would detect and warn if persons or objects were located behind the mower.

They claim the defendants also are negligent for failing to warn operators of the dangers of mowing in reverse.

"Defendant John Deere failed to adequately warn of the dangers of mowing in reverse in that the label on the subject lawn mower that reads DO NOT MOW IN REVERSE is noncommonsensical and ineffective because the subject lawn mower allows for the operator to mow in reverse," the complaint states.

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