Six years after a fall from a golf cart left Roderick Jenks with brain
damage, he is suing manufacturer Textron for products liability. Jenks,
now 53, had been riding on the back of the cart that was being operated
by a New Hampshire Motor Speedway employee when he fell out and struck
his head on the pavement. At the time, he was volunteering for charity.
Jenks suffered a traumatic brain injury that was so serious that doctors
had to take off part of his skull and remove a portion of his left frontal
lobe. He then was confined to hospitals and rehabilitation facilities
for a year. Now, according to his legal team, he continues to need assistance
with basic tasks.
Jenks’ wife, Melissa, filed a golf cart injury lawsuit on his behalf
against the speedway, its employee Breann Thompson, and Textron. It was
Textron subsidiary E-Z-GO that constructed the golf cart that was involved
in Jenk’s fall accident. Melissa also filed a personal injury lawsuit
seeking damages for loss of consortium. In May, the Jenkses settled with
New Hampshire Motor Speedway over the negligence allegations (including
failure to post golf cart speed limits and not properly training its drivers)
for an undisclosed amount.
Now, his New Hampshire products liability lawsuit against Textron is underway.
The plaintiff contends that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn
customers that serious injury or death could result if riders sat or stood
in the back of the E-Z-GO golf cart.
Prior to Jenks’s accident, another man, John Hall, had also fallen
off the back of an E-Z-GO golf cart but he died of his injuries. Although
the 67-year-old family did not sue the manufacturer, they asked that Textron
post a warning label on the rear of its golf carts. The manufacturer,
however, only chose to include such warnings on its newer models.
Meantime, Textron’s legal team is blaming the golf cart operator’s
carelessness for Jenks’ injuries. Thompson was reportedly involved
in a game of “chicken” and speeding when the cart swerved
and Jenks fell off. The manufacturer contends that either the speedway
didn’t properly train her or she disregarded that training. The
defense is arguing that operator carelessness/ inexperience, and not sitting
in the back of the golf court, was the actual hazard.
With golf carts now used at golf courses, airports, gated communities,
schools, and businesses, and as alternative road vehicles, it is important
that these vehicles can be safely used for these different purposes and
on the various terrains. According to the Research Institute at the Nationwide
Children’s Hospital, there were more than 13,400 golf cart accidents
in 2006. Meantime, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting about five
golf cart deaths every year.
It is important that a manufacturer ensures that each golf cart is designed
and made to be as safe as possible while providing proper instructions
on operating and riding one and warning of any possible dangers to riders.
Golf carts are not made with standard automobile safety features and they
can be a safety hazard especially when operated by someone that lacks
the experience to handle this type of vehicle. Driving very fast or over
uneven ground may increase the chance of injuries.
Track golf cart lawsuit opens, Concord Monitor, July 18, 2012
Golf Cart Brain Injury Victim Settles $5M Suit, Reuters, June 27, 2012