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Essex County

In this action, the plaintiff bicyclist, age 53 at the time, contended that the helmet manufactured by the defendant was defectively designed because of alleged inadequate padding on the sides of the helmet.

The plaintiff also contended that the codefendant municipality acted in a palpably unreasonable manner in failing to repair a number depressions in the roadway that commenced with Hurricane Floyd and which the plaintiff maintained was the subject of a number of complaints to the municipality for an approximate nine-month period. The plaintiff contended that as a result, his bike lost control and he fell when it encountered a particularly deep depression of several inches in depth. The plaintiff claimed he suffered severe right temporal and orbital fractures and a severe cerebral hemorrhage. The plaintiff contended that he will permanently suffer significant cognitive deficits in areas such as memory and concentration, that he suffered a significant reduction in visual acuity, he cannot continue his job as an electrical engineer for Con Edison, and that although he can walk and talk in a relatively normal manner, he cannot drive.

The plaintiff maintained, in the Title 59 aspect, that commencing shortly after Hurricane Floyd, the subject stretch of roadway became in disrepair, and the plaintiff contended that a number of residents had made complaints over a period of approximately six months. One of the residents would have testified that he drove through the area weekly and felt the depression virtually every time during this period.

The defendant municipality denied that any failure to effectuate repairs was palpably unreasonable. The defendant municipality further denied that the plaintiff could establish that the condition of the roadway caused the accident, pointing to the fact that no one witnessed the accident, and that the plaintiff had no recollection of the incident.

The plaintiff would have countered that the plaintiff was seen riding by the area moments before the incident, showed no apparent distress and was then found directly near the depression in question.

The evidence revealed that the padding on the helmet the plaintiff was wearing during the accident became thinner at the ear area and at another portion of sides that provided air vents. The plaintiff contended that the reduction of the amount of padding in these areas rendered the helmet dangerous and the design defective.

The defendant manufacturer denied that this position should be accepted and maintained that the helmet met all standards. The defendant manufacturer also maintained that the additional padding advanced by the plaintiff would interfere with the defendant’s ability to securely attach a chin strap. The plaintiff would have countered that a number of alternative methods for securing such a strap, which did not compromise the amount of padding, were available.

The defendants both contended that the plaintiff had ridden in this area numerous times, was fully familiar with the area and was comparatively negligent.

The plaintiff maintained that he suffered severe fractures in the area of the right orbit and right temporal area and was unconscious for almost a one-month period. When the plaintiff was discharged from the initial hospital, he spent approximately another one-month period in a rehabilitation hospital and then nine months as an outpatient.

The plaintiff contended that although he made significant improvement, he will permanently suffer significant deficits in memory concentration and visual acuity. The plaintiff maintained that he can no longer drive and can no longer pursue the active lifestyle that he formerly enjoyed. The plaintiff also maintained that he is permanently precluded from returning to his electrical engineer’s position.

The defendant helmet manufacturer denied that the amount of padding on the sides of the helmet contributed to the injury. The manufacturer maintained that the major portion of the injury involved the orbital area, which would not be covered by the helmet and that it was likely that the plaintiff’s face impacted with the ground and that the force from this impact then caused the injuries to the side, denying that additional padding would have prevented the injuries.

The plaintiff denied that this position should be accepted, maintaining that front of the helmet protrudes, and that this factor would prevent his face from striking the pavement first. The plaintiff contended that it was likely that the plaintiff struck the temporal area and the orbital area simultaneously when he fell. The plaintiff also would have argued that even if the protruding front of the helmet struck the pavement initially, uniform thickness of the padding would have prevented the force being transmitted in such a manner that the temporal area sustained such significant injury.

The case settled prior to trial for $________. The helmet manufacturer paid $________ cash and placed $________ in an annuity with a 20-year guarantee. The municipality paid $________ cash.

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