“That’s not trash, that’s my mower!”

By Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

A man’s robotic mower was mistakenly tossed in a garbage truck.

A Danville, Virginia man whose robotic lawn mower was hauled away by a trash truck is out of luck, at least as far as his lawsuit against the city goes. According to a story by John Crane published on the GoDanRiver.com website, a judge dismissed his case.

Last August, Cecil Calvert’s Husqvarna robotic mower was picked up by a city trash truck driver and tossed in with the refuse, ending up half-submerged in water. This rendered the machine unable to work.

Calvert sued the city for compensation, but Danville General District Judge Marcus Brinks dismissed the case. Calvert later told the Danville Register & Bee that he was concerned about the precedent that could be set by the decision. “I worry about the city doing it again,” he says.

Dash camera video shows the truck stopping in front of what appears to be Calvert’s home. Just before it stops, what looks like a small robotic lawn mower can be seen next to a utility pole, a fire hydrant and a mailbox near the curb. A 3-foot-by-2-foot sign on the pole stating “this lawn maintained by a Husqvarna auto mower” can also be seen. After nearly 30 seconds, the truck continues moving along its route.

Although the store that sold Calvert the autonomous mower, Wilson Lawn & Garden, repaired the unit without charge, it still didn’t work properly. Husqvarna, for its part, replaced the damaged mower for free last fall.

The mower appeared to be still in the video. It should be moving at all times when not parked in its recharging dock. The only other reason for it to stop moving and shut down would be that it had gotten stuck.

Calvert reportedly purchased the automatic mower because his two jobs do not leave him the time to do yard work. He’d sought $4,500 plus 6 percent interest starting the day the lawnmower was taken, $1,200 in attorney’s fees, compensation for another attorney’s services and for having to pay his sister-in-law to mow his grass.

The city argued that the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects it against simple acts of negligence. The city’s attorney maintained that the doctrine applies to garbage removal as part of the public health function of local governments. The attorney also noted that Calvert did receive a new mower at no cost.

Calvert has no plans to appeal the judge’s decision.