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Parents of 13-Year-Old Amputee Victim Allowed to Pursue Negligence Claims Against Vehicle Manufacturer

Bad Boy Enterprises manufactures and sells golf carts modified to function as off-road vehicles. These “Bad Boy Buggies” are primarily marketed to outdoor enthusiasts and hunters. They are also the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit in Georgia over their safety.

The plaintiffs in this case are the parents of a minor. The child was 13 years old when her parents allowed her to operate a Bad Boy Buggy owned by a family friend. The child had driven the vehicle on several prior occasions, always with her parents permission. On the day in question, she was driving the buggy around a looping gravel driveway with a friend sitting in the passenger seat.

According to court records, the buggy would suddenly accelerate even when constant pressure was maintained on the accelerator pedal. On this particular day, the child applied the brake as the vehicle entered a turn. The vehicle continued to accelerate, however, and eventually tipped over, severing the child’s left foot and part of her leg.

The Facts Remain In Dispute
The parents sued Bad Boy Enterprises and its parent company. Presently there are three claims against the defendants: (1) the buggy had a known “design defect” that caused the unintended acceleration; (2) the manufacturer failed to properly warn customers about the risk of unintended acceleration, and additionally, that the vehicles should not be operated by minors; and (3) the manufacturers previous three product recalls related to the buggies were negligent under Georgia law.

On August 20, U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land denied Bad Boy’s motion for summary judgment on all three claims. This is not a decision on the merits, but rather an indication that each claim presents a significant factual dispute that may ultimately be resolved by a jury trial. For example, on the issue of defective design, Bad Boy argued it was driver error that caused the crash. But there’s substantial conflicting evidence pointing to unintended acceleration. Therefore, summary judgment isn’t appropriate, according to Judge Land.

On the question of failure to warn, Bad Boy pointed to an “important information” pamphlet enclosed with every buggy purchase. This document states the vehicle should never be operated by any person under the age of 18. The plaintiffs argued that this warning should, but didn’t, appear on the vehicle itself, which instead only says the buggy should be operated by “authorized drivers.” Again, Judge Land determined this is a factual dispute for a jury to resolve. He said a jury could conclude the failure to provide a specific age warning on the vehicle was a cause of the accident.

Finally, there’s the allegation of negligent recall. Bad Boy issued separate recalls in 2008, 2009 and 2010 related to unintended acceleration problems. According to the plaintiffs, the family friend who owned the vehicle at issue in this case never received notice of those recalls, specifically the 2009 recall, which addressed a faulty circuit. The parents said if they had received such notice, they never would have let their daughter operate the vehicle.

Georgia law does not require a manufacturer recall a product. But when it chooses to do so, there is a duty to exercise “ordinary care in conducting the recall campaign.” Bad Boy acknowledged the owner of this vehicle did not receive notice of the recall. Instead, the company argued it wouldn’t have mattered, because the specific problem corrected by the recall was itself unrelated to the alleged defect that caused the child’s accident. Once again, Judge Land found this was a factual dispute for the jury.