Can you imagine going for a ride on a jet ski or similar water craft and sustaining a traumatic injury due in part to a defective design that has existed in the watercraft since the date of purchase? This was the experience of the successful plaintiffs at trial, Fabiola Esparza and other plaintiffs (collectively “Esparza”) in Esparza v. Polaris Industries Inc., et al., Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Docket No.: BC429211. Esparza, who was fifteen-years-old at the time of the incident, according to the article on www.law360.com, was a passenger on a 2001 Polaris Virage (“Polaris”) on Independence Day five years ago. The article explained the vehicle was on a “collision course with a boat on the Colorado River near Blythe, Calif. The boat’s driver . . . was concerned the [Polairs] posed a threat to his grandchildren, who were riding in a raft behind the boat, and made a hard left turn in front of the watercraft, according to court documents.” The driver of the Polaris watercraft turned the handlebars to avoid a collision, but no movements resulted, and the crafts collided into each other..
As a proximate cause to the alleged defective design of the Polaris, Esparza suffered a “debilitating brain injury, while [the driver of the Polaris] and the other passenger [on the Polaris] suffered substantial but less serious injuries” according to the article. Esparza alleged that the defective design was in the loss of the Polaris’ steering capability when the driver released the throttle. Polaris Industries claimed that there was no such defect and the accident was caused by “a combination of too much speed, too much alcohol[,] and reckless driving.” The driver of the non-Polaris boat with the grandchildren riding in a raft behind the boat was allegedly severely intoxicated according to Polaris. Polaris indicates this “severe intoxication” was evidenced by the grandfather’s guilty plea to three felony counts of boating DUI. In combination with the Polaris’ high speed travel of “up to [forty-five] miles per hour” the fault rests with both those involved in the crash as opposed to a design defect.
The jury found the crash resulted from a combination of the grandfather’s negligence driving the other boat, the Polaris driver’s reckless behavior, and the design of the Polaris watercraft itself, according to Polaris Industries. The jury, however, found that $21.7 million should be awarded in total and “the remainder of the award balance assessed against the driver of the [Polaris] and the driver of the other boat.” Subsequent to this trial, Polaris Industries stopped manufacturing watercrafts in 2004 and is currently planning to make an appeal of the partial liability judgment against the manufacturer, even though the liability has yet to be decided according to www.dealernews.com. This may be due in part to the majority of the award being awarded to Esparza because of the negligence of the grandfather driving the non-Polaris boat. As of now, Polaris Industries generally expects to see an $11 million liability judgment against them from the jury trial.
Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman, LLC and their New Jersey law firm routinely represent individuals who have been seriously injured by dangerous and defective products. Our attorneys have substantial experience in product liability law, and one of our partners is a co-author of the leading New Jersey product liability law book. Many of our attorneys’ cases have been against some of the largest product manufacturers in the world.
Our successes include a $33.9 million settlement for a defective product that injured our client while he was working; this is the largest products liability recovery in New Jersey history. Our successes also include a $4.15 million settlement for an employee who suffered a brain injury after a hutch fell on him while he was at his desk, a $2 million settlement with the manufacturer of an amusement ride, and the $1.9 million jury verdict for a serious back injury suffered by a man who used a defective chair.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a defective product, please contact Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman and one of our N.J. products liability attorneys will contact you within twenty-four (24) hours to discuss your case.