MTD Products Inc. is facing a new lawsuit over plastic wheel rims that could burst if the tires are over-inflated on snow throwers causing injuries that sparked a recall in 2006 of about 130,000 units.
MTD has switched to metal rims on its snow throwers. But the original plastic rims have caused more than 100 injuries from flying pieces of plastic, including fractured fingers, facial lacerations, a broken arm and a broken toe, according to Victor Harding, a lawyer with the Milwaukee law firm Warshafsky, Rotter, Tarnoff and Bloch.
When the winter snow flies, injuries still happen with the thousands of snow throwers still out there with the plastic rims, Harding said. Every year, about this time of year, we start getting calls, he said.
In the fall of 2006, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and MTD issued a recall of certain models of two-stage compact snow throwers under the brands of Troy-Bilt, Yard Machines and Craftsman.
Terry Hollister, general counsel for Cleveland-based MTD, said the company has contacted owners of about 80 percent of the snow throwers with the original plastic wheels. MTD continues to try and reach all the owners, he said.
Hollister said the original wheels were injection molded from 30 percent glass-filled polypropylene. Those wheels could fail in the event of significant over-inflation with an unregulated air compressor, like the ones at gas stations, he said.
Hollister said MTD switched the wheels to 10 percent glass-filled nylon, and experienced no failures of those rims. MTD now uses metal rims for the snow throwers with inflatable tires, he said.
Warshafsky, Rotter, Tarnoff and Bloch has represented six people injured by the shattered wheels. The latest case, filed Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, was filed against MTD by George Kuzelka of St. Paul, Minn., and Jim LaFleur of Hugo, Minn., and their wives.
Kuzelka said that he suffered severe injuries to his left leg and ankle while trying to inflate a tire, when the wheel exploded, sending pieces of plastic flying. An exploding wheel caused severe injuries to LaFleur's hand, according to the lawsuit.
Kuzelka and LaFleur had not been contacted by MTD about the snow throw recall.
The lawyers claim the plastic wheel rim is defective. Harding said that the plastic wheels can degrade over time. When fiber-filled plastic reaches its ultimate tensile strength, it will suddenly fail, he said.
MTD molds plastic parts at its headquarters plant and at a plant in Tupelo, Miss.