John Deere tractor fire sparks another lawsuit

Jonathan Ellis
Argus Leader

The maker of the popular John Deere tractor series is denying that a design flaw led to catastrophic fires in one of its models.

Deere & Co. responded to a lawsuit brought by Brad, Greg, Jeff and Jon Albrecht, who farm in Kingsbury County. The lawsuit was originally filed in Kingsbury County, but Deere & Co. removed it to federal court.

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

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

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

The lawsuit contends the tractor was defective 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 Ames, Iowa engineer, examined the tractor on behalf of the plaintiffs. He concluded that the most likely cause of the fire was from debris accumulation.

“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 manufactured by Case Corp. includes shields to protect it from debris accumulation under the engine compartment.

Deere & Co. faced a similar lawsuit in 2018 after two John Deer 9460R tractors caught fire near Gettysburg under similar circumstances. That lawsuit was later dismissed by agreement of both parties.