Recently we heard from Ray Rice, Box 242, Rifton, New York 12471, who wrote about an article he'd read in the April 29, 1994 issue of the Times Herald Record published in Middletown, New York.
'On January 18, 1985, Pine Island farmer Charles Gratz lost his balance while unloading a crawler tractor. His sleeve got caught in the wheel tracks. He was pulled to the ground by the moving machinery and run over by the three-ton tractor. Gratz lives.'
A Manhattan jury awarded Gratz and his wife a combined $9 million verdict against Amerada Hess Corporation, successor to the Oliver Corporation which manufactured the 1954 tractor. Apparently Gratz's attorney obtained historical documents revealing that company officials knew of dangers attributed to the tractor, but failed to add guards of fenders for farmers' protection. The trial lasted one week, but the jury only deliberated 48 minutes before deciding that Gratz was not at fault.
Ray writes, 'After reading this article, I couldn't help but think about the possibilities inherent in my old 1920 Cletac crawler. I can't say that the old girl has ever caused me much physical pain (other than the normal ration of busted knuckles when working on her or maybe a little flare up of bursitis from cranking). But there have been occasions when I have wanted to show her off to visitors, and she has chosen to 'play hard to get' and absolutely refused to start. These occurrences have inflicted major damage to my ego and generally diminished my standing in the community! Now, all I have to do is find a suitably sleazy lawyer to extract my just compensation from the folks at Amerada Hess, for all my mental pain and anguish! (After all, Oliver was a successor to Cletrac, therefore Amerada Hess has to be responsible for my hard starting Cletrac!)' We thought you might enjoy Ray's story.