Suzuki Faces $14M Claim at Trial for Spine-Shattering Crash Motorcyclist Claims Was Caused by Brake Defect

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Feb 14, 2018 10:51:02 AM


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Douglasville, GA—Suzuki’s decision not to promptly notify its riders of a critical brake defect in hundreds of thousands of its motorcycles caused the crash that shattered a Georgia motorcyclist’s back, an attorney for the man told jurors as trial began against the company. Johns v. Suzuki, et al. 14SV000043.


“Suzuki knew their brakes were a hidden danger. They knew the riders and the dealers were in the dark, but they waited six more months,” before issuing a recall to more than 200,000 of its motorcycle owners, Cochran & Edwards’ Randy Edwards said, when seeking $14 million against Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. and its U.S. subsidiary for the spinal injuries Adrian Johnson suffered in an August 2013 motorcycle crash.

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Johns fractured his back and suffered other injuries when he was thrown from his 2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000 as the bike traveled 30 mph down an Austell, Georgia roadway. The crash has left Johns unable to return to his former job as a postal worker, and severely limited his mobility.

Johns contends the motorcycle's front brakes failed when he tried to apply them, a defect Cochran told jurors Suzuki was well aware of and could have prevented with an earlier recall or safety warning. Cochran said internal documents would show Suzuki knew of the potentially catastrophic defect by the end of 2012, but, in February 2013, declined to issue a recall that spring over fears that it would hurt business during the traditionally strong motorcycle buying season.

Instead, Cochran said Suzuki quietly ordered 200,000 parts in anticipation of a recall the company ultimately issued in October 2013, two months after Johns’ crash. Despite the preparation for the recall, Cochran said Suzuki failed to warn the government or riders like Johns of the dangerous brake problem. “All they had to do was give a warning if they [didn’t] have the parts yet. A simple warning. Warning: Your brakes may fail. Injury or death may occur,” Cochran said. “They did not.”

Cochran told jurors post-crash testing proved the front brakes had failed at the time of the crash. He described a demonstration showing the motorcycle's wheel freely spinning by hand, despite the fact that the brake was fully engaged. "That's not going to stop a rider going 30 miles an hour," Cochran said. 

The defect at the heart of the recall affects Suzuki GSX model bikes made from 2004 to 2013.

But Suzuki counters that rider error, and not defective brakes, caused Johns’ crash. During his opening statement, Frost Brown Todd’s Randall Riggs cast doubt on Johns’ claim, noting Johns never told anyone at the crash scene that his brakes failed.  Riggs said changes in Johns’ details of the accident painted two different pictures as to where Johns was and what he was doing before the crash. “Since Mr. Johns is the only witness to the alleged brake failure that morning, accuracy and credibility are important,” Riggs said.

Riggs also contended a “spongey” brake problem described in Suzuki’s recall did not match Johns’ claim of brake failure on a motorcycle whose brakes had been working properly up until the moment of the crash. “The recall is irrelevant,” Riggs said.

Instead, Riggs said crash scene evidence, including tire marks, would prove Johns wrecked when he locked up the rear wheel while leaning the bike as he traveled through gravel. “The evidence, in fact, says the crash resulted from impatience, inattention, followed by a locked rear wheel on gravel.

“In other words, operator error.”

CVN is recording the trial gavel-to-gavel and will publish trial video as soon as possible after the verdict.

Trial is expected to continue into next week.

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Related Information

Adrian and Gwen Johns are represented by Cochran & Edwards LLC’s Randy Edwards and Paul Piland, and Sherrod & Bernard’s John Sherrod.

Suzuki Motor of America Inc. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are represented by Michael Goldman and Zachary Wilson and Frost Brown Todd LLC’s Randall R. Riggs and Jeff Mortier.

CVN is recording the trial gavel-to-gavel and will publish trial video as soon as possible after the verdict.

Topics: Products Liability, Georgia, Transportation, Johns v. Suzuki