CHARLESTON – Manufacturers of lawnmowers conspired to cheat consumers by exaggerating the power of engines, according to a class action suit in federal court.

John Lilly of Charleston sued 12 companies at federal court in Charleston on Jan. 6, claiming his Yard Machines mower advertised four horsepower but delivered less.

His attorney, Kristofer Cormany of Charleston, seeks to certify a statewide class action against 12 companies under West Virginia's consumer protection law.

"For more than a decade, defendants have lied to consumers by overstating the horsepower of lawnmower engines," Cormany wrote.

Defendants conspired to misrepresent and conceal facts, he wrote.

"Plaintiff and members of the proposed class paid more for their lawnmowers than they would have paid absent defendants' unlawful conduct," he wrote.

A suit seeking a national class action over lawnmower power failed last May, when a federal judge in Illinois dismissed claims from all states but Illinois.

The judge directed all other claims to "local courts that are familiar with the appropriate underlying state law."

Cormany followed the direction, suing in West Virginia on behalf of Lilly in association with six Minnesota lawyers and one from Pennsylvania.

According to Cormany, Lilly paid $158.99 for a mower at a K-Mart store in 2001. MTD Products manufactured it and installed a Briggs and Stratton engine.

The suit seeks damages from MTD Products, Briggs and Stratton, Sears Roebuck, Deere and Company, Tecumseh Products, Kawasaki Motors USA, Toro Company, American Honda Motor Company, Electrolux Home Products, Kohler Company, Platinum Equity and Husqvarna Outdoor Products.

Cormany alleges they calculated gross power instead of net power.

"Gross horsepower is deceptive because by removing the necessary components, such as exhaust systems and air filters, which drain an engine of power, a higher horsepower can be achieved in the laboratory than in the field," he wrote.

"Of course, no consumer ever uses a lawnmower without an exhaust, air filter and all of the other necessary parts of an engine," he wrote.

The class would include thousands of West Virginians, he wrote, and the class period would begin in 1994.

Class members can recover actual damages or $200, whichever is greater, he wrote.

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