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Theriot v. Polaris - Defense Verdict

California
Jul 10, 2003

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.

Unanimous CA jury says Polaris ATV brakes have no defect

Four-week trial ends after 10 minutes of deliberation

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA - On July 10, 2003, a central California jury returned a unanimous defense verdict in favor of Polaris Industries, after deliberating 10 minutes following a four-week trial.  The 12-person jury found no design defect in the rear brake system of the 1993 Polaris Trail Boss 250 ATV, as plaintiff Dennis Theriot claimed.

The lawsuit stemmed from a June 25, 2000 accident near Pismo Beach, when Theriot lost control of his ATV and skidded off the road.  Theriot claimed the rear brakes in his 1993 Polaris Trail Boss 250 ATV did not operate in neutral, resulting in an inability to stop the vehicle when it suddenly popped out of gear and forcing him and his wife to jump from the ATV, leaving his left hand severely broken.  He alleged the accident could have been prevented had his ATV been designed with rear brakes in neutral.  He claimed that Polaris could have easily designed an ATV with rear brakes in neutral by installing a mechanical foot brake.  In addition, he claimed Polaris was the only ATV manufacturer to have a design with no rear brakes in neutral.

During trial, Polaris attorneys and their experts demonstrated to the jury that Theriot’s ATV could have been stopped at the accident scene by applying the front brakes gradually, instead of locking them.  Plaintiffs’ own expert demonstrated this in a video, and was subsequently withdrawn by plaintiffs, but Polaris was able to play his video for the jury.  Second, Polaris  showed through a computer simulation created by another plaintiff’s expert that had the ATV been equipped with  front and rear brakes in neutral,  it would have stopped only 0.18 seconds faster -- and in either case would still have gone off the road.  Throughout the trial, Polaris attorneys maintained Theriot should not have been riding the single-rider vehicle with his wife, as the additional rider interfered with his ability to operate the controls and ultimately caused him to panic and jam the brakes by applying too much pressure.

Plaintiff requested an award between $300,000-500,000 for loss of earning capacity, plus future surgery costs for 3 or more operations, past medical expenses and wage loss, and pain and suffering.

Dennis and June Theriot v. Polaris Industries Inc.

Judge:  Donald G. Umhofer

Court:   San Luis Obispo Superior Court

Case No:  CV010513

Experts for the defense:  Mitchell Johnson, Polaris engineer, Roseau, MN; Kevin Breen, P.E. ESI, liability, Ft. Myers, Florida.  Michael Behrman, M.D., hand surgeon, Santa Barbara, CA; and Steven Molina, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Santa Ana, CA

Experts for the plaintiff:  Russell Darnell,(liability/withdrawn) , El Dorado, CA; Steven Anderson, P.E., liability, Macinnis Engineering, Lake Forrest, CA; C. Baring Farmer, M.D., hand surgeon (not called), Avila Beach, CA; Dennis Blackburn, O.D., (treating physician), Santa Maria, CA; Ann Wallace, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Solvang, CA; and Marianne Inouye, MBA, economist, Pasadena, CA.

Attorneys for the defense:  Timothy Mattson and Richard Stuhlbarg of Bowman and Brooke LLP Minneapolis and Los Angeles offices.

Attorneys for the plaintiff:  Jacqueline Vitti Frederick, Law Offices of Jacqueline Vitti Frederick, Nipomo, CA.

Trial Team

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