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Unanimous Defense Verdict in Two-Week Polaris Off-Road Vehicle Trial

Syracuse, NY
Aug 25, 2017

Camarata v. Polaris

CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.

After a two-week trial, a Syracuse, New York federal court jury returned a unanimous defense verdict for Polaris in a case involving the Polaris Ranger off-road vehicle. C.C., an infant, by and through her Guardian Ad litem, Paul M. Deep, Plaintiff v. Polaris Industries Inc., United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Case No. 14-cv-975, Honorable Glenn T. Suddaby presiding.

Plaintiff alleged that defects in a 2013 Ranger XP 900 side-by-side off-road vehicle caused the loss of her non-dominant left hand in a September 29, 2013, crash in which plaintiff, then age 11, lost control of her father’s Ranger, tipping the vehicle onto the driver side. Plaintiff’s hand was traumatically amputated during the crash.

Plaintiff alleged the Ranger’s upper frame structure should have been recessed to prevent it from pinning an arm or hand to the ground in the event of a tipover, and that the Ranger’s cab nets should have fully covered the vehicle’s open sides. Plaintiff also claimed that the Ranger’s warnings inadequately addressed the risk of an arm or hand injury and that Polaris negligently designed and tested the vehicle. Plaintiff’s case went to verdict on claims for strict liability design defect, strict liability failure to warn, and negligence.

Polaris defended its product development process and the vehicle’s design and warnings by focusing on the vehicle’s robust design history, well-engineered occupant protection system, and clear and conspicuous warnings. Polaris also presented evidence that plaintiff extended her hand outside of the vehicle’s protective frame structure during the tipover, which occurred because plaintiff violated multiple on-product warnings, including a prohibition against drivers under age 16.

Polaris’s lead counsel, Paul G. Cereghini, of the national product liability defense firm, Bowman and Brooke LLP, commented on the verdict:

"The jury’s verdict completely vindicates Polaris’s development process and the Ranger’s occupant protection system and warnings. The Ranger is a safe and defect free vehicle. The jury soundly, swiftly and correctly rejected all of plaintiff’s criticisms of Polaris and its product."

Plaintiff’s witnesses included accident reconstruction and vehicle design engineer Stephen Batzer from Fife Lake, Michigan; biomechanic Robert Nobilini from Harleysville, Pennsylvania; and, human factors engineer Robert Cunitz from Annapolis, Maryland.

Polaris’s witnesses included vehicle design engineer Kevin Breen from Fort Myers, Florida; accident reconstructionist Graeme Fowler from Phoenix, Arizona; biomechanic William Newberry from Farmington Hills, Michigan; and, human factors engineer Nathan Dorris, from Atlanta, Georgia.

Plaintiff was represented by John G. Simon, Amy Collignon Gunn, Anthony G. Simon and Anthony R. Friedman of The Simon Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri and Thomas L. Atkinson of Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica, New York.

Polaris was represented by its lead counsel, Paul G. Cereghini of Bowman and Brooke in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as Jeffrey C. Warren of Bowman and Brooke in Phoenix, Arizona, Jennifer Bullard of Bowman and Brooke in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Robert A. Barrer of Barclay Damon LLP of Syracuse, New York.

Paul G. Cereghini is Bowman and Brooke’s Firm Chair. He can be reached at 602.643.2400 or at paul.cereghini@bowmanandbrooke.com.

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