July 25, 2010
- We purchase a lawnmower at Home Depot
- Home Depot employee fails to deactivate security device on said lawnmower
- Ear-splitting alarm sounds as we prepare to exit the store
- I'm startled by the sound and pause momentarily
- Adam continues walking and runs into the back of my legs with mower
- There is pain... so much pain (and possibly some profanity)
- We rush to the nearest emergency room and find that my achilles tendon has been completely severed in two
A couple days after the accident, I got a call from a man named Tom Scott at Home Depot's corporate office. He explained that an investigation was being conducted in order to clear Home Depot of any liability. He also said that TORO, the manufacturer of the lawn mower, would be getting in contact with me simply because it was their product involved in the accident.
I remember joking with Adam about the saying "Never trust a man with two first names". I was hoping that Tom Scott would prove to be an exception.
In August, two representatives from TORO and a gentleman who worked for Tom Scott met with me at my house. TORO wanted to inspect the mower to be sure there was no product defect, and Home Depot wanted a representative there to speak directly with myself and TORO about the incident.
They obviously knew I was injured -- that's why they were there in the first place -- but I don't think they expected to see me hobbling around on crutches, with a cast up to my knee, a very noticeable PICC line in my arm and tubing trailing into the fanny pack that held my IV pump (as I was currently doing home IV therapy for a lung infection). Their stares said more than their words could, had they actually been able to say anything. All three of them stood there looking at me, speechless, until I finally broke the silence by extending my hand and introducing myself. (And if you know me, you know how much I enjoyed their discomfort in that moment.)
As I said, they were there to inspect the lawnmower and hear firsthand our account of the accident. It went without saying that they were also there to determine whether or not I was the type of person who was going to sue their pants off. In the next twenty minutes there were of a lot of questions asked, hundreds of pictures taken (of me, of my cast, of the lawnmower), some blame shifting between the two companies and an impressive reenactment of the accident, although the TORO employee who portrayed me didn't quite have the same panache I do.
By the end of the meeting it was pretty clear that if one of companies were to be held accountable, it would be Home Depot. There was no product defect or malfunction, so TORO had no liability whatsoever. They paid for two employees to fly from Minnesota to Salt Lake City, rent a car and drive halfway across the state for our meeting, get a couple hotel rooms for the night (I don't think the fifty-something woman and thirty-something man shared a room, although I could be wrong), then drive back to Salt Lake and fly to Minnesota the next day, plus their meals along the way, only to find that they really had no reason to send anyone out in the first place. Perhaps we should have discussed this beforehand, TORO. I'm sure we could have come to some sort of agreement in which you could have just given me the money you spent on that little business trip and in return, I'd have pinky-promised not to sue you. Heck, I would have settled for what you spent on just the plane tickets.
Home Depot was a little concerned that we would go after them since it was their employee who failed to deactivate the security device on the lawnmower (which is what caused the alarm to sound, startling me). That concern escalated when the TORO employee explained that the company generally places one security device on the handle of the mower, but that Home Depot had specifically requested that another device be placed on the deck of their mowers for added security. Basically he was saying hey, YOU guys asked for the additional security device, then YOU were the morons who failed to deactivate it. Good luck with your lawsuit, buddy.
The Home Depot guy didn't say too much after that, and I got the feeling he wasn't really looking forward to reporting to Mr. Tom Scott back at HD corporate headquarters.
From the very beginning, we were urged to hire an attorney. Literally one of the first things out of the doctor's mouth as he began examining my injury was "I certainly hope Home Depot is paying for this". And, in theory, it sounded nice: get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, quit our jobs and live like kings at the expense of Home Depot. But in reality, I think a big problem with this society is how sue-happy we are. So many people think that everything is someone else's fault, and that they should pay big time for it. This was an ACCIDENT! I didn't (and still don't) feel like Home Depot owed me an exorbitant amount of money. Of course we were hoping that they would offer to help cover the medical bills, and if they wanted to, say... give us the lawnmower for free, we certainly wouldn't turn them down. But neither Adam or I felt that it was at all necessary to file a lawsuit. We were just going to be decent and honest and hope that Tom Scott would do the same.
Over the next few months I was in regular contact with Mr. Scott. He would often inquire about my recovery and asked that I forward him any documentation of out-of-pocket expenses incurred in this whole process. He also requested a letter from my employer verifying lost wages from any work I had to miss due to my injury, including any time missed for doctor's appointments. At one point, I received an email from him which said that Home Depot did, in fact, have some liability issues in my case and that after I was discharged from medical care (related specifically to that injury) he would like to discuss a settlement figure.
Well my friends, the paperwork has been signed and I can tell you that, although it was not a large settlement by any means, it's enough that the lawnmower will be paid for, all of my out-of-pocket medical expenses will be taken care of, and we'll even have a little bit leftover for bills or Christmas. And we were able to do it all without the waiting, frustration and added expense that would have been involved if we had hired a lawyer. I feel like we were treated respectfully through the whole thing and that Home Depot definitely did their part in making sure I was taken care of. And no, I'm not being paid to say that.
I'm starting to believe that saying may not be of much consequence after all. I think that there are men with two first names who can, in fact, be trusted. I mean, Tom Scott turned out to be an alright guy. And what about Benjamin Franklin or Clark Kent?
And c'mon, Clive Owen? I'd trust him with my everything.