Case details

Plaintiff improperly operated ATV, causing crash: defense





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, fracture, neck, neck paralysis, vertebra
On Feb. 29, 2016, plaintiff Chelsea Rush, a 24-year-old woman in the second month of pregnancy, rented a 2008 Honda TRX250EX all-terrain vehicle. She intended to go trail riding with her boyfriend in the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, in Borrego Springs. The recreation area includes sandy washes, which are sections of land that were washed away during the summer rains, during which considerable amounts of sand, gravel and rocks are carried away downstream, and when the washes dry up, large deposits of sand are left behind. As Rush entered a sandy wash, she suddenly veered off the trail, careered down an embankment and collided with a cliff wall. She sustained of her neck. Rush’s mother and guardian ad litem, Shannon Brown, acting individually and in Rush’s behalf, sued the seller of the ATV, American Honda Motor Co. Inc.; the designer of the ATV, Honda R&D Americas Inc.; the manufacturer of the ATV, Honda North America Inc.; the company that rented out the ATV, San Diego Motor Sport Rentals (also known as San Diego Motor-Sport Rentals-Rental Agency); the believed owners of San Diego Motor Sport Rentals, Brian Robert Booth and Eriko Booth; and Sandlewood Ventures. Rush alleged that the defendants were negligent and strictly liable for the ATV’s design defect and for failing to warn of the vehicle’s dangerous condition. Several of the defendants were dismissed from the case, and the matter only continued against American Honda Motor. Rush claimed that the TRX250EX ATV lacked an adequate foot environment to prevent riders’ feet from contacting the rear tires. She claimed that, as a result, her right foot came off the ATV’s right foot peg and made contact with the right rear tire, causing her to lose control and veer off the trail. She claimed that American Honda failed to adequately warn her about the need for riders to keep their feet on the foot pegs and that, as result of the ATV’s defects in its design and American Honda’s failure to warn, she crashed. American Honda’s counsel presented a Honda engineer who testified about the company’s rigorous development history, which included more than 20,000 running tests. American Honda’s experts explained that the ATV’s foot environment and labeling satisfied the requirements of the American National Standard for Four Wheel All-Terrain Vehicles, which is now a mandatory federal safety standard. They also testified about the TRX250EX’s state-of-the-art foot environment design and its exemplary safety record. American Honda’s counsel argued that Rush’s foot did not get caught in the ATV’s rear tire and that the crash resulted not from a design or warnings flaw but from improper operation. Counsel contended that, as Rush approached the rough terrain through the sandy wash, where the crash occurred, she was in the lead for the first time, was fatigued, had a sore right wrist, and was distracted by concerns about a large rock ahead of her as well as her companion’s whereabouts behind her. American Honda’s accident-reconstruction expert opined that the factors suggested by defense counsel combined with Rush’s lack of experience caused Rush to veer off the trail., Rush suffered fractures of her cervical spine, rendering her an incomplete quadriplegic. She was taken to a hospital for treatment, and she was eventually able to have her baby. Rush ultimately underwent spinal surgery and a subsequent untethering spinal surgery. Rush claimed that she needs around-the-clock nursing care and regular medical monitoring. She also claimed that she will likely need additional surgeries. Rush sought recovery of past and future medical costs, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. Rush’s counsel asked the jury to award Rush as much as $160 million in total damages.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case