Tractor Runs Over Man Due to “False Neutral” Defect
During routine roadside mowing maintenance near Lake Okeechobee, our client brought his loaner diesel tractor that was pulling a large three-blade commercial mower deck to a stop, placed the transmission in neutral and exited the tractor to move metal debris out of his path. As he was moving the debris, the tractor unexpectedly jumped into forward gear and accelerated toward him. Our client attempted to pull himself back onto the tractor to reach the controls to stop it, but was trapped under the rear tire and struck by the blades, resulting in an amputation to his right leg at the hip joint. He also sustained significant traumatic lacerations to his left leg, and subsequent MRSA, concussion, and loss of hearing in his left ear.
An investigation by the Clark Fountain team revealed the transmission had been adjusted in such a manner that it had a “false neutral” defect, which could have been discovered and corrected had the shift linkage been properly inspected and adjusted prior to use. The condition permitted normal engine vibration to jump the transmission from neutral to forward without any movement of the shift lever. Partner Donald R. Fountain and Attorney Ben J. Whitman filed suit against the farm tractor supplier for negligent inspection and maintenance. The confidential settlement will help our client with his current and future medical costs, as well as compensate him and his family for the loss of his working ability as a lawn maintenance provider.