Monday, May 22, 2006

Ford v. Polaris Industries (Cal. Ct. App. - May 18, 2006)

Watch out when you ride those personal watercraft.

Not surprisingly, the water that it uses as propulsion jets out at really quickly. But I never knew how quickly. Neither did Susan Ford, who was riding one of those things when she fell off backwards. Which I'm sure often happens.

But Ford lands in a particularly devastating way. The jet nozzle that shoots out the water comes close -- very close -- to her anus, if only for a split second. Which, to use the chilling words of Justice Reardon, literally "tore apart her internal organs".

When this happens, the water apparently enters the anus and shoots through your body, ripping everything to shreds. When this happened to Ford, she immediately vomited and passed out, floating (thank goodness for the life preserver) in a pool of her own blood. She was then airlifted to the UC Davis Medical Center and required "massive resuscitation" to survive. She spent ten days in the hospital, and when she learned what had happened to her insides, she "basically fell apart." She has to use a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. She has to urinate through a catheter. "Her lower right torso and leg are numb from nerve damage. " And you can imagine how this has affected her recreational and sex life. Not good. Not good at all.

As you might imagine, Ford sues for her injuries, and recovers almost $400,00 in economic damages and around $3.3 million in noneconomic damages. The theory is design defect against the manufacturer, and the defendant appeals, principally claiming primary assumption of the risk. But Justice Reardon, in this opinion, upholds the jury verdict. I see people riding these things all the time. Be careful.

I didn't know that this stuff could happen. Word to the wise.