Lawn Care Forum banner
1 - 20 of 23 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
726 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A while back, someone posted a thread about changing the pulley sizes on their spindles to increase blade speed. Technical issues aside, the general consensus was that if there was an accident, and the attorneys found out that someone modified their mower that way (beyond OSHA standards), it would result in even more liability.

So, I was wondering if you’re using an Operator Controlled Discharge (OCD), would that expose you to more liability in the event of an accident? Like an accident such as throwing a rock and putting someone’s eye out, etc. Would an Insurance Company claim that you modified your mower to the point of being unsafe, and thereby deny a claim?

Surely it would make you more liable if it’s a homemade OCD. But what if you installed an after-market OCD?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,382 Posts
More likely the insurance would pay the claim and cancell your insurance. They get to skating on really thin ice by denying claims. Especially liability claims.

Dave
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,020 Posts
Originally posted by Bluesteel
Speculation is ok, but I would like to hear from the MasterChute guy on this issue. Since he would likely have some concrete (or at least educated) answers.
Good point, but like you said we'll have to see what/if he says anything. He might not be very excited about disclosing such information (e.g. actions filed for products liability).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,020 Posts
Originally posted by David Haggerty
More likely the insurance would pay the claim and cancell your insurance. They get to skating on really thin ice by denying claims. Especially liability claims.

Dave
Respectfully, I disagree. Denial of claims pays very large dividends for insurance carriers. They get to keep and invest profits (the premiums we all pay) for several years by forcing people into protracted litigation. A common tactic.

It's not thin ice for them, it's the insurance carrier's right to deny claims. Some carriers continuously deny 95% of claims regardless of the circumstances. It's real. I have seen thousands of claims.

My opinion on the original topic - let's just say that if I'm an insurance adjuster and I have knowledge that the discharge chute was operator controlled..........YES the operator is most definitely exposed to more liability, guaranteed 100% & I don't care if it's after market or homemade. If I'm an adjuster I put you on the hook in the blink of an eye because human error enters the picture & most likely prodct liability all but vanishes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
83 Posts
Originally posted by Bluesteel
Speculation is ok, but I would like to hear from the MasterChute guy on this issue. Since he would likely have some concrete (or at least educated) answers.
We have looked at it from all angles, including insurance and legal issues. Our product DOES have product liability coverage and general liability coverage. The underwriter does quite an extensive evaluation before issuing a unit-specific liability policy.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,647 Posts
Nice to know your product carries insurance


If there was a claim for an accident described above. There would be at the very least in informal inquary to the accident. Common sense plays a big roll in such an accident.

In all the years I have not heard of once an accident as described.

I do know of accidents where decapitation has happened when employees ride in the back of dump trucks not looking forward and the truck just makes it under an over pass, but the employee does not.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,382 Posts
Originally posted by Gr grass n Hi tides
Some carriers continuously deny 95% of claims regardless of the circumstances. It's real. I have seen thousands of claims.

I agree. Some companies are worse than others. And to limit my personal liability the only other thing I would say about that is that the problem is NATIONWIDE.

Of course the courts and attorneys look at us as mindless drones who have barely enough brainpower to follow a walk behind around a lawn.
I would prefer if they would consider us as professionals in our field with enough insight to possibly improve a product.

Bluesteel is installing a safety device. An OCDC chute would be an improvement over NO chute which most of us run.

I'll agree further that you can expect NO support from the manufacturer on liability calims if they can possibly avoid it.

If for instance your mower deck developed a crack, few manufacturers would advise you to simply weld the crack. It's time for a new deck!
And aftermarket parts. Forgetaboutit! Some manufacturers even post warnings about how they cannot gurantee the integrity of the machine if you use aftermarket parts.

And what about using double blades? I'd hate to be the one to test that modification in court.

All I'm saying is that you can't live your life or run your operation according to what some insurance company or judge might do.
Because there is no way to anticipate what they may decide to rule.

And how could you possibly comply with OSHA guidelines? As far as I can find out they still require long sleeved shirts, long pants, heavy steel toed boots, hearing and eye protection and a hardhat. (I'm still trying to figure any logic behind requiring a hardhat) The clothes alone would kill you!
I've heard OSHA fines you $1,000 for a "mislabeled" gas can. You can have a Gasoline can clearly marked as such, but if it's not marked Gas and oil mix, you're fined $1,000.
I think the OSHA rule is if they show up, YOU PAY. Because they are an agency which survives on the fines they levy!
I wouldn't say they'r not an agency which has done a lot of good, but lets keep it within reason! And update the clothing requirements to what you see on the cover of every turf industry publication...SHORTS!

The less said during any "investigation" the better. Because the first thing an attorney wants to know is "What did you tell them?"
Personally I'm going to be like Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it." or "It was like that when I got here."
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
726 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
No need to talk about OSHA. I only brought up OSHA because a couple of people have told me they put limits on blade speed. Therefore if someone modified their mower to increase that speed, the LCO would obviously increase their exposure (and minimize the manufacturer) to any liability in an accident. Since most mowers don’t come with an OCD, putting one on a mower would be modification that could but a LCO at financial risk.

Most everyone follows the topic, but for some reason, a few people always seem to miss the point. They look at an example (putting someone’s eye out with a rock), and say something like, “In all the years I have not heard of once an accident as described.” As if what they’ve heard (or not heard) of has any relevance to the point of the thread. It wouldn’t matter what example I used, these people would find an exception to it. OBVIOUSLY the chances of a catastrophic accident are slim, but the consequences could be ruinous to a LCO. Of course we should try to avoid every hazard, but accidents happen, hence the need for insurance, DUH! Please, stay relevant and contribute to the topic of the thread or keep quiet.

MasterChute looks like an awesome product. I appreciate Masterform’s contribution, but it was vague. Then again I wasn’t specific either. So, if your mower throws a golf ball (people actually hit and throw those) and if you’re using the stock deflector that comes with the mower, there’s little chance it will fly very far because of the channel-shape of the stock deflector. However, an OCD is basically a flat plate. A rock couldn’t fly very far coming out of the discharge at a right-angle. HOWEVER, a golf ball could easily (and probably will) come out at an angle behind the OCD plate and fly quite a ways.

Lets say that golf ball hits someone in the face, putting their eye out. Obviously the LCO is at fault. The LCO doesn’t say a word, just calls his insurance agent. The injured person’s attorney smells blood in the water and sues the LCO; the homeowner; the mower manufacturer; the mower dealer; the golf course across the street; the golf ball manufacturer; the gas station that sold the LCO gasoline; etc. etc. Everybody’s playing Bart Simpson; especially the attorney for the mower manufacturer, who points out that the LCO is using an after-market OCD, thereby exempting the manufacturer of liability. EVERYBODY involved says, “OCD? What’s that?” Then everybody’s attorney jumps on the OCD liability bandwagon. Especially the LCO’s insurance company.

Will the insurance company be able to deny the claim because the LCO modified their mower with an OCD?

Is the OCD Manufacturer liable in any way?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,020 Posts
Originally posted by David Haggerty
All I'm saying is that you can't live your life or run your operation according to what some insurance company or judge might do.
Because there is no way to anticipate what they may decide to rule."
Like you suggested, it is impossible to think of every liability, but some are more obvious than others. Stuff like this really does require some thought on our part so we can do what we can, within reason, to head off problems.

The one constant with juries is that they are wildly unpredictable. Judges sometimes have their own agenda and it shows in their rulings. I sure don't want somebody else deciding my future on a whim. Maybe the judge has a tee-off time he's late for, or maybe you've got a juror or two that want to get the heck out of there so they can take their kids to Pizza Hut. Stuff like that really does happen. I've seen it. Once I had a witness tell me "whatever you want, man I don't care..........the guy is guilty, fine.........I have a business to tend to and can't afford to spend any time in court whatsoever." Naturally, we didn't use him. It's the people that don't come out with it but hide their thoughts that you have to worry about.

For example, on this discharge issue, say a freak accident does happen and a guy is killed by a piece of wire (or whatever) that your mower discharged:

Plaintiff's attorney - "Mr. LCO you run your mower with an operator controlled discharge chute, is that correct."

LCO - "Yes."

Plaintiff's attorney - "Is'nt it also true that you replaced the mower's factory manufactured deflector with this operator controlled device."

LCO - "Yes."

Plaintiff's attorney - "You have asserted that you had the operator controlled device in the down position at the time of the incident which is the subject of this action, is'nt that true?"

LCO - "Yes."

Plaintiff's attorney - "What evidence do you have to offer the court that is in fact the case...........is'nt it true that just a flip of a switch or turn of a handle can move your discharge chute to the down position in just a second or two...........I believe you testified to that fact during your pretrial deposition."

Bingo. You're nailed unless you have a credible independent witness that is willing to stand up for you in court. Not only that, but if a catastrophe does happen, you have probably changed a lot a lives (the deceased's family and friends) in a way that could never be measured.

Accidents happens, certainly. That's why their called accidents. but negligence occurring when a hazardous situation could have or should been avoided is another thing.

Dave, I'm not saying you would ever do anything hazardous intentionally. I like your posts and I'm quite sure you run a top notch operation. All of these comments, for what they're worth, are just to try and get everyone out there to consider things a little. I hope you never have to contend with a bad situation like we're hypothesizing about.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,020 Posts
Originally posted by Bluesteel
Since most mowers don’t come with an OCD, putting one on a mower would be modification that could but a LCO at financial risk.

OBVIOUSLY the chances of a catastrophic accident are slim, but the consequences could be ruinous to a LCO.

So, if your mower throws a golf ball (people actually hit and throw those) and if you’re using the stock deflector that comes with the mower, there’s little chance it will fly very far because of the channel-shape of the stock deflector. However, an OCD is basically a flat plate. A rock couldn’t fly very far coming out of the discharge at a right-angle. HOWEVER, a golf ball could easily (and probably will) come out at an angle behind the OCD plate and fly quite a ways.

Will the insurance company be able to deny the claim because the LCO modified their mower with an OCD?

Is the OCD Manufacturer liable in any way?
I agree, the LCO could be at risk after modifying a mower. I guarantee that mower manufacturers test and test again before they put a product out, with safety in mind. Then the LCO does what - changes it. The mower manufacturer then has a very defensible case. The discharge chute manufacturer - that's another issue. Maybe they're on the hook & maybe they're not. Depends.

I think the LCO has the greater responsibility. You're out there doing the work & you willfully modified your machine.

If your carrier does deny a claim and you end up in trial, the carrier cares absolutely zilch about you as their insured, I don't care if you have paid premiums to it for 50 years. If, for example it denies liability and you have 1M policy limits & there's jury verdict for 5M..........guess what the carrier says "hey plaintiff, here's our 1M & Mr. LCO good luck with that 4M judgment against you sitting on the books at the courthouse."

The golf ball example - I had that exact situation a couple of months ago on a property I cut across the street from a golf course. I'm mowing, hear a clunk, and see a golf ball that hit my discharge chute bounce off the ground close to the mower, go about 15 feet into the air, and land maybe 20 yards away. Low velocity trajectory that would not have harmed anyone. Now, imagine the same instance with a wide open operator controlled device..........that ball could have traveled several hundred yards, gone through someone's window, even killed somebody.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
726 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have a lawn right across a major arterial street from a Golf Course (that’s hosted the US Open a few times). Because of the layout of that course, there are anywhere from 3-7 balls in that yard at any time. Of course I pick them up first. However there is an extremely large Magnolia Tree out front next to the street. One of the first times mowing that lawn, going around that tree, one of those big leaves was hiding a golf ball.

I heard a “WHACK” and turned just in time to see a radical slice careening across that busy street. That ball was moving so freaking fast and with the mower and traffic noise, I couldn’t tell if it hit the back of a SUV or not. What a wake up call!

Since then, I’ve had nightmares about a ball breaking someone’s window, blinding them, and watching them cross the yellow line, and plow head-on into a school bus full of kids. Needless to say, I discharge the leaves into the low hanging branches of that tree now. And I make double sure there are no golf balls, anywhere.

I doubt anyone would answer those questions. So it's CYA.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,746 Posts
Originally posted by Bluesteel
So, if your mower throws a golf ball (people actually hit and throw those) and if you’re using the stock deflector that comes with the mower, there’s little chance it will fly very far because of the channel-shape of the stock deflector. However, an OCD is basically a flat plate. A rock couldn’t fly very far coming out of the discharge at a right-angle. HOWEVER, a golf ball could easily (and probably will) come out at an angle behind the OCD plate and fly quite a ways.
I have to disagree........

I had a blade bolt break and caused $3000 damage to a Mercedes. Had the factory chute covers on, didn't help 1 bit.

I've watched tennis balls, golf balls soft balls and other fly out from under the deck, not even out the un obstructed chute.

I got almost got a hole in 1 last week on the 15th hole at Bellerieve Country Club while mowing a customers house, that golf ball came out the opposite side of the deck.

In all my time mowing I have had 1 tennis ball actually come out the discharge chute, everything else flew out from the under side of the mower.

Weather you have a chute cover or not, it can and will still happen.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,382 Posts
I believe many companies hire me because mowing has so much potential liability. They make sure I'm insured. Then if anything disastrous happens they hope it happens only to me. Sure my business would be devastated but hey! I'm only one guy.
For a while I even carried an added umbrella policy which covered everything my 2 mil. policy didn't.

I think for insurance companies to deny a claim and deny coverage you would have to be proved guilty of criminal neglect. Not just negligent. Like if you rigged your mower to fire golf balls from an on board supply or something. Not just fail to see a golf ball or something like that.

Everything I do is done in a professional workman like manner. I pay complete attention to safety. Including any modifications I may need to make to a mower. And I am ready to justify my actions in court if necessary. Though I don't believe it will do me any good. If a company I work for or my insurance company decides they need to squash me, then just stick a fork in me 'cause I'm done.

I don't believe the mower manufacturers have the bible of mower safety either.
Why do manufacturers put a sticker on the chute warning of it's removal, and then make it possible to remove the chute without tools? John Dere has the only deck I've seen that you can't remove the chute. And I've heard that people saw them off.
And what about those stupid dead man switches?

I think manufacturers tack garbage onto the machines in the name of safety and leave us to deal with it. Half of it's worthless!

It's a dilemma and we're in the middle.

If you believe the moral high ground is leaving your machine in pristine condition than do that.

The lawyer is just going to focus on something else. "Your honor this man was taking sinus medication at the time the accident occurred and it was of the type that advises not to be operating machinery while taking."

Just work as safely as you can and if you have a question about how safe a product is just ask the folks here on Lawnsite.
If you have a question about product liability maybe you should go to Lawsite or something.

Dave
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,020 Posts
Originally posted by David Haggerty
I believe many companies hire me because mowing has so much potential liability. They make sure I'm insured.

Everything I do is done in a professional workman like manner. I pay complete attention to safety.

If you believe the moral high ground is leaving your machine in pristine condition than do that.

Just work as safely as you can and if you have a question about how safe a product is just ask the folks here on Lawnsite.
If you have a question about product liability maybe you should go to Lawsite or something.

Dave
Dave - Sometimes it's difficult to interject the same type of inflection into written words as one may be able to convey during a face-to-face conversation. So, please believe me when I say that I meant no disrespect toward you or your business practices. As I said, I am quite sure that you run a top notch operation.

I am not standing on "moral high ground" in any respect whatsoever. I take a little offense to that. I'm talking about liability/risk management and situational what if's and maybes. My past 10 years of work experience have given me a vast wealth of information to draw from, and I thought I might be able to use that to shed light on a few things for inquiring minds. Just trying to help. If you feel logging onto "lawsite" is a better option, then you should do that.

I am not holding myself out as a legal consultant. Anyone that cares to read my bio will see that I'm not an attorney (don't ever want to be), and when I do post with "what I know" I try to make sure folks realize where my perspective is coming from so they are not mislead.........exactly like my lawn experience, I tell everyone when I post what that is so they'll know where I'm coming from.

Actually, I myself expressed interest in the Masterchute product a short while ago on a thread. If, I assure you, if I do install a masterchute-like device on my machine I would be running it in the open position only when I felt it was safe to do so. Same as you or any of us should. That's what we're talking about.

The original thread question was (paraphrasing a bit here) "would running an operator controlled discharge increase liability." I would like to reiterate, most definitely yes IF it is used improperly; furthermore, as I have said I believe it would be easy to argue that a person making use of an OPERATOR CONTROLLED discharge does assume more responsibility if an accident happens because human error enters the picture. That is what negligence and liability are all about.

This thread was started for the purpose of, as you said, "having people on lawnsite answer a question about how safe a product is." That is exactly what we're discussing. Insurance and product issues are directly tied to this and for that reason they need discussion to an extent.

If we disagree on some points, that of course is fine. Healthy debate is a great way to learn.

Again, I truly hope you never have to contend with a bad situation like what we're hypothesizing about, and I hope you are prosperous the rest of 2003 & beyond.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
726 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Some good points. But it's still CYA. Because my gut instinct is that if you have an accident with a "modified" mower, you're increasing your exposure (liability). Probably to the point of having the insurance company denying your claim. I wouldn't count on one bit of help from the OCD manufacturer (prolly miss-spelled that) either.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,746 Posts
Originally posted by Bluesteel
Some good points. But it's still CYA. Because my gut instinct is that if you have an accident with a "modified" mower, you're increasing your exposure (liability). Probably to the point of having the insurance company denying your claim. I wouldn't count on one bit of help from the OCD manufacturer (prolly miss-spelled that) either.
I think this is over analyzing this.

If it's going to happen, it will wheather you have an OCDC or the factory chute on or off the mower.
 
1 - 20 of 23 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top