Category: Punitive Damages

Gomez & Golomb LLC Resolves Traumatic Brain Injury Case Against Textron d/b/a E-Z-GO

Confidential Settlement with Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO

We represent a young man ejected from a golf cart (more accurately a personal transportation vehicle) resulting from a sharp left-hand turn. The photo above is the cart immediately after the incident. This happened in 2012. The ejectment threw the young man head first onto a paved road. The young man spent many months in the hospital with his family. He is a fighter and made a miraculous recovery (he had to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat). Despite his recovery, because of the severity of the impact to his head, he left the hospital with permanent traumatic brain injury (T.B.I.). This is an injury that rarely improves, and, unfortunately, is permanent. Needless to say, brain function is critical to every aspect of life, and this was a devastating injury to our client and his family. 

After hiring experts to investigate the cart and the circumstances of the incident, we determined that the manufacturer of the personal transportation vehicle, Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO, had been warned by and well-known engineer in 2007 about passengers being ejected from these types of vehicles because of inadequate passenger-side hip restraints. This engineer was particularly concerned with the rise in injuries to children between the ages of 12-16. Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO were also aware of a 2006 peer-reviewed journal article raising these same concerns.

From 2007 until 2012, Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO had more than 10 meeting with the engineer who issued the warning, yet failed to make any safety changes to the passenger hip restraint, failed to issue any warnings to existing customers, and failed to recall any of the unsafe vehicles already on the road.

After getting no response from Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO, we filed a lawsuit in Fulton County State Court. Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO hired a large silk-stocking Atlanta law firm to vigorously defend the case. Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO’s main claims were that these vehicles weren’t supposed to be driven on public roads. As the risk of sounding glib, Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO’s argument that these vehicles shouldn’t be used on public roads was laughable. Textron, Inc. d/b/a E-Z-GO took the position that because there was a warning on the cart against driving on a public road, then E-Z-GO was responsible for injures on public roads, even if there vehicles were unsafe.

Below is an example of some of the marketing material from E-Z-GO’s website and twitter pages that we were ready to show the jury at trial. This evidence shows that EZGO continuously and aggressively marketed these vehicles to families with children to use in and around their neighborhoods. In fact, anyone that’s lived in a suburban neighborhood has seen families and teenagers using these vehicles to get around on neighborhood roads.

During the next several years, we argued summary judgment motions, Daubert motions, discovery dispute motions, and took depositions of experts in Connecticut, Minnesota, Georgia, and Florida. After almost five years of non-stop work, this past Monday, we finally started a jury trial that was expected to last about 10 days.

In total, close to 30 witnesses were expected to testify.Our side had testimony from two engineers and five doctors, while Textron d/b/a E-Z-GO had testimony from two engineers and a human factors expert.On Monday, we spent all day picking a jury. While we were pleased with the jurors selected, and hopeful both sides would get a fair and impartial judgment based on the evidence presented. Opening arguments took place Tuesday morning until lunch, with each side making compelling arguments for their clients. However, during lunch, the opposing sides approached each other, now having heard each other’s full arguments, to explore settlement. After some deliberation, the case settled for a confidential amount. Although we prepared and hoped to take the case to conclusion, our client was very happy with the result and the settlement was truly in his best interest. 

To be clear, we have not and will never advocate against the use of these types of vehicles. They serve an important function in many communities and are flat out fun. However, our profound hope is that Textron d/b/a E-Z-GO will carefully examine the passenger restraint systems on all its vehicles, current and past, and that it will commit itself to designing and manufacturing safe golf carts and passenger vehicles for typical use, which is often by teenagers on public, neighborhood roads. We also implore Textron d/b/a E-Z-GO to consider recalling any unsafe vehicles currently on the roads with unsafe passenger restraint systems.

Click here to see to an article from Courtroom View Network summarizing the case.

Recover punitive damages in Georgia (even without injuries)

Punitive Damages: Generally

If you’re involved in an car wreck and the conduct of the party who caused the collision was reckless and intentional, you may be entitled to punitive damages. The two most common examples of misconduct that warrant punitive damages are hit and run and drunk driving. Also, whether the offending party has a history of reckless driving is an important factor. The purpose of of punitive damages isn’t to make the injured party whole, but rather to send a forceful message to the offending party and the public that reckless driving won’t be tolerated. Probably everyone can agree that limiting reckless driving is a worthwhile undertaking.

O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b) provides that “[p]unitive damages may be awarded in such actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”  O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(c) further states that punitive damages “shall be awarded not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.”

Leaving the scene and driving under the influence are examples of of wilful misconduct, wantonness, and that want of care that shows conscious indifference to the consequences. According to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f), in these situations, a jury is entitled to award the injured party unlimited punitive damages:

In a tort case in which the cause of action does not arise from product liability, if it is found that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with the specific intent to cause harm . . . there shall be no limitation regarding the amount which may be awarded as punitive damages . . .”

Punitive Damages: Property Damage Claims

In Georgia, punitive damages are recoverable in a property damage claim even if there are no injuries. Bowen v. Waters, 170 Ga. App. 65 (1984), aff’d, 175 Ga. App. 884 (1985) (“While an award of punitive damages is authorized only where a tortfeasor’s conduct is of an aggravated nature, such an award may properly be based upon an aggravated tort involving only property rights.”).

At Gomez & Golomb, unlike some others, we’re not a cookie cutter personal injury law firm. We devote our full attention to each case so that we maximize your recovery. If you’re in a collision, please call us to discuss whether your case is the type that might justify punitive damages, and what other damages you might be entitled to.