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Oregon Court of Appeals


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Purdy v. Deere and Co.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 10-10-2012
Case #: A144265
Schuman, P.J. for the Court; Wollheim, J.; and Nakamoto, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://courts.oregon.gov/Publications/docs/A144265.pdf

Tort Law: When a jury is presented with compound questions that address both the standard of care and causation, the appellant must establish that the jury did not decide the case on causation.

Purdy, the conservator of a minor child, appealed the jury verdict in this products liability claim. The girl’s father reversed a lawnmower while his daughter approached him from behind. The father backed into his daughter while the override on the blades were engaged, causing his daughter’s leg to require amputation. The blades shut off when the mower is traveling in reverse, but an override button allows the blades to continue cutting. Purdy claimed that the mower was defective because the blades operated while the mower was in reverse, the override button should have been behind the seat, and there was a lack of effective warnings. On appeal, Deere argued that the jury was presented with compound questions that addressed both the standard of care and causation. Since the jury only gave one word answers, it is impossible to tell if they found that the mower was defective or that the defect did not cause the accident. The Court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that the accident could have occurred even without the override button. Most of Purdy’s assignments of error related to causation, and the Court rejected Purdy’s argument that a witness should not have been qualified as an expert. Therefore, Purdy had not demonstrated that any error was prejudicial. Affirmed.