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U.S.D.C., N OH

This case involved a suit against the makers of a motorcross neck brace after a rider was paralyzed in a fall. The matter was resolved via jury verdict after the defendant denied negligence.

On February 13, ________, Scott S., then-15-years-old, was riding a 250cc dirt bike at the Ram Jam Sportsplex facility, located in suburban Cleveland. On his second lap of the morning, Scott inadvertently cased a jump and was thrown head first over the handlebars, spearing into the track’s surface with the top of his helmet. At the time of his injury, Scott was wearing a helmet and other safety gear from several different companies, including the Leatt-Brace manufactured by the defendant Leatt Corporation. As a result of his fall, Scott S. suffered multiple mid-thoracic spine fractures resulting in immediate and permanent paraplegia. Now, 18 and a high school senior, he is expected to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

The family of Scott S. filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio for product liability, naming as defendant the Leatt Corporation. The plaintiffs sought recovery of damages on theories of negligence, including defective product design and failure to warn. The defendant asserted that the accusations were without merit.

At trial, the plaintiff argued that the Leatt Brace inappropriately restricts head movement, and during crashes, focuses high loads on the wearer’s thoracic spine. The defendant denied this, arguing that Scott’s thoracic paraplegia was an unavoidable consequence of his fall, not the result of his wearing the defendant’s brace. They further argued that the brace had likely saved his life, or prevented quadriplegia by preventing cervical spine injury.

The defendant brought expert testimony from two engineering experts with Engineering Systems, Inc., as well as medical testimony from the medical director for U.S. professional supercross and motocross races. The plaintiff brought liability witnesses including, Joseph Burton, M.D., and Richard Stalnaker, Ph.D.. Two additional plaintiff’s witnesses were excluded from the trial based on defendant’s Daubert motions.After two weeks of trial, the jury returned a finding for the defendant.

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