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$880,000 Go-Kart Collision

Type of Action: Go-Kart accident; negligence; products liability

Name of Case: Kristy Lorance v. Beams Industries, Inc., et al

Court Case #: Payne County (Oklahoma) District Court No. CJ-2001-129

Amount of Settlement: $880,000

Date of settlement: 2004.

Plaintiff, an eighteen year old high school senior was injured on “senior skip day” when she and her friend went to a local go-kart track in Oklahoma. The go-kart she was driving was only equipped with a shoulder belt and no lap seat belt. As a result, when another go-kart collided with her, she slid down in her seat and broke her neck.

Plaintiff brought claims against the operator of the go-kart track, the manufacturer of the shoulder belt, and a classmate whose go-kart collided with her. Plaintiff was prepared to offer testimony from a nationally recognized amusement ride safety expert that applicable industry standards required that a lap belt, rather than only a shoulder belt, be provided in the go-kart. His testimony was also expected to include that these standards required the manufacturer of the seat belt to provide adequate warnings and instructions directing that the seatbelt only be used as a lap belt and that because it lacked such warnings and instructions, the seat belt was defective and unreasonably dangerous beyond the expectations of the ordinary consumer. Plaintiff was also prepared to offer testimony from a biomechanical engineer and medical doctor that had the go kart been equipped with a lap belt, plaintiff would not have sustained her injuries.

Following the collision, plaintiff was initially a quadriplegic.  After physical therapy and hospitalization she regained the use of her limbs and was able to walk with a leg brace.  She was left with loss of feeling on the right side of her body, loss of use of her left arm, and general fatigue and weakness.  Plaintiff’s vocational expert was prepared to testify that she would require special placement assistance to be employable.

Shortly after filing suit, plaintiff’s counsel reached settlements totaling $380,000 with the operator of the go-kart and the classmate.  The go-kart track tendered $300,000 which was the full limits of its insurance coverage.  The case against the seatbelt manufacturer continued.  A mediation was scheduled after expert depositions were completed and the case was scheduled to be assigned a trial date.  The manufacturer tendered the full amounts of its $500,000 insurance policy.  Unfortunately, the seatbelt manufacturer had no other substantial assets and the manufacturer of the go-kart had previously declared bankruptcy.

Plaintiff’s counsel from Massachusetts was honored to be invited to work on this case by an eminent member of the Oklahoma plaintiff’s bar, whose active participation was essential to the result obtained and who convinced plaintiff’s health insurers to release their rights to be reimbursed for medical expenses they had paid.

 


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