Marietta, GA— Attorneys Tuesday debated what caused a golf car rollover crash that seriously injured a Georgia child, as trial opened against the vehicle’s maker, Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America. Hall v. Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, 20-A-1696.
The May 2018 crash occurred as the child’s father, Brooks Hall, was driving the 2013 model Yamaha G29 "Drive" downhill, and applied the brakes to stop for a car turning ahead of him. The child’s family says the vehicle, equipped with a rear, two-wheel braking system, fishtailed and then flipped, dragging the child, who was three at the time, along the road, with the vehicle’s weight on top of her.
The child suffered a range of injuries including scarring across her head and body, incurring more than $400,000 in past medical expenses alone, according to court documents. The child’s mother, plaintiff Suzanne Hall, is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages for the incident.
During Tuesday’s openings, Hall’s attorney, Bayuk Pratt’s Frank Bayuk, walked jurors through the incident involving the golf car, which some call a "golf cart." He said evidence would show the vehicle’s braking system was defectively designed, ultimately leading to the rollover.
Bayuk told jurors that Yamaha never tested the vehicle’s braking system when being driven downhill, despite knowing the brakes would be used on roadways and in such situations, and despite knowing of similar rollover incidents. Bayuk added that evidence would show that a four-wheel braking system, which Yamaha had the ability to include on the vehicle, would have prevented the incident.
“For years, before May 2018, Yamaha received multiple injury claims caused by downhill-braking rollovers of the Drive,” Bayuk said, “but did nothing to fix this defect to protect [the child] or all of its other customers.”
But Yamaha contends the braking system is safe and that the way the golf car was driven, combined with after-market modifications to the vehicle, ultimately caused the accident.
On Tuesday, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial’s Frederick Cooper IV told jurors that a prior owner of the golf car modified the vehicle before selling it to the Hall family. Cooper added evidence would show that those modifications, which were never approved by Yamaha and which violated safety standards, made the vehicle faster, heavier, and less stable.
And Cooper added evidence would show the child’s father was driving too fast downhill and not paying attention to the car in front of him just before the crash.
“Had he been paying attention, the evidence will show he had plenty of time and distance to stop without slamming on the brakes at high speed,” Cooper said. “But he wasn’t paying attention.”
Trial, before Cobb County (Georgia) State Court Judge Diana Simmons, is expected to last into next week. CVN is streaming the trial gavel-to-gavel and will provide updates via its news page.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.