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Florida Jury Weighs in on ATV Trial

Kissimmee, FL
Jul 11, 2018

Villa v. Honda

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On June 29, 2018, a jury in Kissimmee, Florida returned a unanimous defense verdict, following a two-and-a-half week trial, in favor of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and American Honda Motor Co., Inc., on Plaintiffs’ sole remaining claim for manufacturing defect.  This wrongful death case arose out of a September 12, 2010 crash that occurred in Kissimmee, Osceola County, Florida.  At the time, Juan Villa was injured while riding a 2008 Honda TRX700XX ATV.  While operating alone in a sand pit on private property, the ATV overturned as Juan Villa approached the crest of a hill, causing him to be ejected from the ATV, rendering him a paraplegic.  Mr. Villa passed away on October 31, 2015 as a result of complications arising from his crash-related injuries. 

Plaintiffs asserted a strict liability manufacturing defect claim against the Honda Defendants alleging that the left rear tire of the ATV was damaged when the tire was being mounted onto the rim at the time the ATV was manufactured.  Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that during the mounting process, the machine and/or technician mounting the tire caused the wire within the tire bead to be bent, thereby making the bead susceptible of unseating from the bead seat on the wheel rim.  Plaintiffs further claim this defect in the left rear tire caused the tire to fail (i.e., to debead) and Juan Villa to lose control of the ATV at the time of the September 2010 incident, resulting in the crash and the injuries which lead to his death. 

The Honda Defendants vehemently denied these claims and argued that the tire was not damaged prior to the sale of the ATV to Juan Villa, but rather, that the tire was damaged during the crash.  It was the Honda Defendants’ position that operator error on the part of Juan Villa caused the loss of control and crash of the ATV.  As a result, Juan Villa was pitched off the ATV at or near the crest of a hill. During the subsequent rollover of the ATV, it suffered extensive damage, including the left rear tire’s outer bead being dislodged from its rim seat (i.e., debeading), and no defect existed in the ATV that caused or contributed to the crash.  The Honda Defendants presented evidence to the jury which unequivocally refuted each of the Plaintiffs’ claims, effectively proving that the bead on the left rear ATV tire was not bent during the mounting process and, even if the tire bead had been bent, it would not have resulted in sudden loss of air pressure or loss of control of the ATV claimed by the Plaintiffs.

In closing arguments, Plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury for over $10 million in economic damages plus non-economic damages for pain and suffering.  The jury deliberated for only one hour finding for the Honda Defendants and completely rejecting Plaintiffs’ claims.  

The Honda Defendants were represented by John Seipp and Frank Hosley of Bowman and Brooke LLP.  

Plaintiffs were represented by Manuel Reboso of Rossman, Baumberger, Reboso & Spier, P.A. and Francisco Vinas of Vinas and DeLuca, PLLC.

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