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Motorcyclist claimed Harley should've had anti-lock brakes

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

Texas

Venue:

Federal

Court:

U.S. District Court, Eastern District

Injury Type(s):

hip; head-fracture, skull; brain-subdural hematoma; brain-traumatic brain injury; chest-fracture, rib; elbow-fracture (fracture, olecranon), elbow (fracture, olecranon); other-hematoma; other-infection; other-MRSA infection; other-physical therapy; other-decreased range of motion; shoulder-fracture (fracture, scapula), shoulder (fracture, scapula); shoulder-fracture (fracture, clavicle), shoulder (fracture, clavicle); epidermis-contusion; surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation; mental/psychological-cognition (memory, impairment), impairment (memory, impairment); gastrointestinal/digestive-spleen

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Motorcycle; Products Liability - Design Defect, Failure to Warn

Case Name:

Mark Jones and Pamela Jones v. Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group, LLC and Harley-Davidson, Inc., No. 2:14-cv-00694-JRG-RSP

Date:

January 19, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Mark Jones (Male, 63 Years), 

Pamela Jones (Female, 60 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Nelson J. Roach; Nix, Patterson & Roach, L.L.P.; Daingerfield, TX, for Mark Jones, Pamela Jones ■ Andrew Pate; Nix, Patterson & Roach, L.L.P.; Daingerfield, TX, for Mark Jones, Pamela Jones

Plaintiff Expert(s):

John Lenox; M.D.; Biomechanics; San Antonio, TX called by: Nelson J. Roach ■ David Altman; M.D.; Life Care Planning; San Antonio, TX called by: Nelson J. Roach ■ Stephen Martin; Ph.D.; Neuropsychology; Tyler, TX called by: Nelson J. Roach ■ Timothy Lovett; Accident Reconstruction; Hurst, TX called by: Nelson J. Roach

Defendant(s):

Harley-Davidson Inc., 

Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Group LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Ernest "Skip" H. Eubanks Jr.; Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell; Orlando, FL, for Harley-Davidson Inc., Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Group LLC ■ Mark A. Kircher; Quarles & Brady LLP; Milwaukee, WI, for Harley-Davidson Inc., Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Group LLC

Defendant Expert(s):

Lars Reinhart; Biomechanics of Injury; San Antonio, TX called by: Ernest "Skip" H. Eubanks Jr., Mark A. Kircher ■ David Thom; Motorcycle Helmets; Los Angeles, CA called by: Ernest "Skip" H. Eubanks Jr., Mark A. Kircher ■ Kevin Breen; Accident Reconstruction; Fort Myers, FL called by: Ernest "Skip" H. Eubanks Jr., Mark A. Kircher ■ Robert Lange; Automotive; Troy, MI called by: Ernest "Skip" H. Eubanks Jr., Mark A. Kircher

Facts:

On July 6, 2013, plaintiff Mark Jones, 63, a construction worker, was riding a 2012 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic motorcycle with his wife, plaintiff Pamela Jones, 60, a bank teller. They were heading north on Highway 271 in Mt. Pleasant, when a vehicle made a left turn in front of their bike. Mr. Jones applied the brakes, the rear tire locked up and it fell on its left side after leaving the roadway. The plaintiffs claimed multiple injuries. The plaintiffs sued Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Group LLC/Harley-Davidson Inc., alleging that the bike was defective and unreasonably dangerous due to the manufacturer's failure to incorporate an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a standard safety feature. The Joneses argued that the motorcycle's rear wheel would not have locked if it had an ABS, and that they should have been warned of this risk. Harley-Davidson argued that an ABS was an optional feature that the plaintiffs declined to choose when purchasing the bike, and the bike wasn't defective or unreasonably dangerous. Harley-Davidson argued that the vast majority of motorcycles do not possess anti-lock brakes and that the crash was most likely due to Jones' lack of experience as a motorcycle rider. The defense's expert on automotive engineering testified that 91 percent of registered motorcycles within the U.S. did not possess anti-lock braking systems.

Injury:

The Joneses were taken by ambulance to Titus Regional Medical Center and then transferred to East Texas Medical Center. Mr. Jones was diagnosed with fractures of the 4,5,6,7 anterior and 6,7,8,9,10,11,12 posterior left ribs; a fractured left clavicle, a fractured left scapula, a fractured olecranon and a basilar skull fracture. He was also diagnosed with multiple subdural and subarachnoid hematomas. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, resulting in emotional changes and memory loss Mr. Jones was hospitalized until July 30 and transferred to the Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation, where he remained until August. He was then transferred to the Texas Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center. While hospitalized at East Texas Medical Center, Mr. Jones developed an MRSA infection. He was placed in a medically induced coma and given antibiotic treatment. After his discharge from East Texas, Jones underwent cognitive therapy as well as physical therapy. Mrs. Jones was diagnosed with a fracture of her non-dominant left elbow, a grade 3 spleen injury, and multiple left hip contusions. She required open reduction and internal fixation to repair the elbow fracture. She was discharged from East Texas Medical Center on July 30. She also claimed a traumatic brain injury with emotional changes and memory loss. She claimed diminished range of motion in her left arm. The Jones' accident reconstruction expert testified that the collision had been a violent high side crash at an angle of 360 degrees per second. Mr. Jones claimed outstanding medical expenses of $749,000. Mrs. Jones claimed $555,000 in outstanding medical expenses. The plaintiffs returned to work following the collision but have since retired. They did not claim damages for lost wages. The plaintiffs sought $3 million to $5 million in total damages at trial. Harley-Davidson did not dispute the extent of the plaintiff's injuries, but argued that their head injuries and lingering cognition issues were a result of their failure to wear helmets. The defense's accident reconstruction expert testified that the motorcycle crash occurred at a low rate of speed occurring at approximately a 90- to 100-degree roll rate. The defense's expert specializing in motorcycle helmets testified that use of the helmets would have provided significant safety benefit. The defense's injury biomechanics expert relied on these findings and stated that the plaintiffs would have only sustained minor concussions if they had been wearing helmets.

Result:

The jury found that the motorcycle did not have a design defect or marketing defect that rendered it unreasonably dangerous and found that Harley-Davidson was not negligent in the designing and marketing of the motorcycle.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Robert Schroeder III

Trial Length:

8  days

Trial Deliberations:

2  hours

Jury Vote:

8-0

Jury Composition:

3 male/ 5 female

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.