Nathan Godfried Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine

Nathan Godfried’s life changed forever six years ago in a freak accident that happened while he was bicycling with his son on Route 2 in Passadumkeag.

As a pickup truck towing a trailer passed them on Aug. 18, 2013, an 8-foot blade from a rear-mounted mower on the trailer came loose. It struck Godfried in the leg and nearly severed it.

The University of Maine history professor might have bled to death if a nurse who was taking her children to swim in Bangor hadn’t stopped to help. Arica Gagnon of Lincoln used her son’s new beach towel as a tourniquet until emergency personnel arrived.

As a result of the injury, Godfried’s left leg had to be amputated above the knee.

Last week, Godfried, 68, of Orono sued the Ford Motor Company, which manufactured the mower on the trailer, in U.S. District Court in Bangor. He is seeking $1 million in damages. Ford manufactured that model of mower from 1955 until 1966.

Through his attorney, A.J. Greif of Bangor, Godfried declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Greif alleged in the complaint, filed Aug. 14, that the mower was defective because the blade could drop from an upright position to a deployed position while being transported. The driver used a factory-installed device to secure the blade, but it failed.

“We are putting the machine on trial, not its manufacturer,” Greif said. “This machine was poorly designed. It should have had a completely independent, backup mechanism to keep the lethal sickle mower in an upright position as it was carried over the open roads or transported across a field. Nothing in the mower handbook that we have located warned the buyer that this blade could drop from its upright position at an unexpected time.”

The attorney said that the litigation was delayed, in part, due to the difficulty of locating the mower. It had been sold twice since the accident, he said.

Godfried has recovered and moved on since he was injured, according to Greif.

“Dr. Godfried was lucky that an RN saw this event happen and saved his life,” he said. “The loss of his leg is a profound loss. To his credit, Dr. Godfried has gotten on with his life. By bringing this suit, we hope that we encourage Ford to reach out and make sure that others are not similarly injured.”

Representatives of Ford did not immediately return a request for comment.

The case most likely won’t go to trial but will be settled, as is the vast majority of civil litigation filed in federal court in Maine. If the case follows a similar path as cases like it, it likely will be settled for less than $1 million and include a confidentiality agreement that prevents the parties from disclosing the terms of the settlement.