Deere denying design defect allegations in tractor fire suit

February 26, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Deere & Co. has formally denied allegations from Kingsbury County farmers that a design defect led to fires in one of its tractor models.

Deere responded earlier this month to a federal lawsuit brought by Brad, Greg, Jeff and Jon Albrecht, the Argus Leader reported.

In its response, the company denies that its John Deere 9620RX tractors were “unreasonably dangerous” when they were made by the Illinois-based company.

“The subject tractor conformed to the state-of-the-art at the time it was designed, manufactured, packaged, and labeled,” Deere’s response said.

The Albrechts bought the tractor on Dec. 30, 2015, paying $462,229, their lawsuit says. The tractor was damaged when it caught fire while being operated on Oct. 30, 2017.

The lawsuit argues the tractor was faulty because a design flaw failed to shield debris from accumulating around the exhaust system. When hot, that allowed the tractors to catch on fire.

In 2019, the company published a product enhancement program to address the issue of debris accumulation, according to the lawsuit.

Steven Hamers, an Iowa-based engineer, examined the tractor on behalf of the plaintiffs. He concluded that the likely reason for the fire stemmed from the collection of debris.

“This tractor fire is one of a group of John Deere 9000RX tractors being investigated by this engineer,” he wrote in his report. “All of the tractors share similar fire observation circumstances.”

Hamers noted that a similar tracked tractor, built by Case Corp., includes shields to safeguard it from debris buildup under the engine compartment.

In 2018, the company faced a similar lawsuit after two John Deer 9460R tractors caught fire near Gettysburg under related circumstances. That lawsuit was subsequently dismissed by agreement of both parties.