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ARTICLE ID 28885

$________ - PRODUCTS LIABILITY - YAMAHA DIRT BIKE EQUIPPED WITH FAULTY CARBURETOR, WHICH CAUSES DIRT BIKE TO SEIZE UP AS PLAINTIFF OPERATOR ATTEMPTS A JUMP - PLAINTIFF LANDS ON BUTTOCKS, SUFFERING A T-11 BURST FRACTURE - PARAPLEGIA.

Cook County, Illinois

The plaintiff brought this action against the defendant Yamaha, the manufacturer of the dirt bike which the plaintiff was operating when the bike allegedly seized up during a jump, causing the plaintiff to lose control and fall backwards, landing with significant force on his buttocks. The plaintiff was subsequently diagnosed with a T-11 burst fracture and permanent paraplegia, manifesting in the complete loss of mobility from the waist down. On the issue of liability, the plaintiff alleged that the Yamaha dirt bike was defectively designed and manufactured specifically due to a faulty carburetor. The plaintiff contended that evidence established that the carburetor seized during use, and that the defects alleged by the plaintiff were the cause of the sudden seizure.

The subject accident occurred on April 27, ________, when the 22-year-old plaintiff was operating a Yamaha model YZ125 dirt bike on land owned by his friend. The plaintiff was attempting a jump from one previously constructed ramp to another similar ramp, when the dirt bike suddenly seized in mid-air, causing the plaintiff to lose control of the bike and fall to the ground. The ramps or elevations were several-feet high each. The plaintiff landed on his buttocks, sustaining a T-11 burst fracture. The injuries to the plaintiff’s spine were severe and he was rendered p 7 3 permanently paraplegic.

The plaintiff contended that the Yamaha dirt bike was defectively designed and manufactured, specifically relating to the bike’s carburetor, which caused the dirt bike to seize just as the plaintiff commenced the attempted jump. Postaccident examination of the carburetor indicated flaking of chrome metal on the carburetor slide. The plaintiff’s experts opined that chrome metal flakes peeled off the carburetor slide and caused it to seize as the plaintiff attempted this relatively simple jumping maneuver. The metallurgist’s microscopic exam and photos proved the presence of peeling on the carburetor slide. In addition, the plaintiff’s expert metallurgic exam revealed prominent scratches and steel tool fragments within the carburetor unit.

The plaintiff presented internal Yamaha documents, obtained during the course of discovery, referencing problems with peeling chrome plating on the carburetor slide, which were discovered during durability testing of an exemplar subject dirt bike.

The defendant denied that the carburetor seized up during the plaintiff’s attempted jump and theorized that the actual cause of the accident was the plaintiff’s lack of expertise in the handling and operating of this vehicle. The plaintiff countered that while the plaintiff had admittedly ridden this bike on only a few occasions previously and had little dirt bike experience, he was very familiar with riding a variety of other types of off- road vehicles. The plaintiff additionally asserted that the jump he was attempting was a relatively simple one for an individual of the plaintiff’s experience and skill in off-road riding (the ramps or "jumps" in question were approximately three feet high and ten feet deep). The plaintiff’s motor cross/dirt bike expert concurred that this was a jump maneuver typically performed by the novice dirt-bike rider. Under cross-examination by plaintiff’s counsel, a senior company representative called by the defendant to testify on other issues, admitted that he too considered himself a novice in dirt bike riding, and had performed the same or similar three-foot-high jump maneuver on one or more prior occasions. The defense admitted the existence of scratches inside the carburetor, but maintained that the debris and scratches were environmentally created, pointing to the fact that during the prior two weeks of use, the plaintiff had ridden the bike on a rough trail consisting of sand and cinders. The defense argued that cinders invaded the carburetor housing, scratching the sides. The defendant’s expert said he found proof of the presence of cinders inside the carburetor. The plaintiff countered with expert testimony from a chemist, who opined that the black coating and debris was residue from oil and gas alone and that he found no evidence that cinders had invaded the carburetor.

The plaintiff sought damages for past medical care costs incurred as a result of the accident, future medical and attendant care costs, lost earning capacity (past and future), damages for pain and suffering and damages for disfigurement.

The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded compensatory damages of $________. The breakdown of the award was as follows: $________ for future medical expenses; $________ for past medical expenses; $________ for disability; $________ for p 7 3 disfigurement; and $________ for past and future pain and suffering.

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