• Defense Wins Two Day Jury Trial Involving ATV
  • October 14, 2016
  • Law Firm: Leitner Williams Dooley Napolitan PLLC - Chattanooga Office
  • Summary of case:
    James Exum and Frank Clark of Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan in Chattanooga, Tennessee obtained a defense verdict in a two day jury trial for a local school district on June 30, 2016. The case was entitled Heather Whalen, Michael Whalen and Debra Whalen v. Hamilton County Department of Education, Gail Chuy, Ted Gatewood and Ayana Barrett.

    The student-Plaintiff claimed that in 2012, while a senior at a local high school, she was injured by another student’s negligent operation of a John Deere Gator. The Plaintiff was riding in another student’s lap in the passenger seat of a 2 person Gator when the driver apparently took a turn too quickly. Both passengers were tossed from the Gator and the Plaintiff suffered a broken right arm.

    The Plaintiff sued the school district for lack of supervision and lack of training in the use of the John Deere Gator. Attorneys Exum and Clark tried this case before a jury and argued that the Plaintiff was the cause of her own injury, as she was sitting in someone else’s lap when she was tossed out of the vehicle. Moreover, she was a licensed driver and entrusted with the operation of an automobile but claimed she needed special training in order to operate a John Deere Gator.

    The school district further argued that if a student could be trusted with an automobile, then a John Deere Gator should be very easy to use. The Plaintiff contended that she was never given the operator’s manual to the Gator and was never given an instruction session on how to properly use the Gator. Plaintiff admitted that she knew that it probably was not the best idea to sit in someone’s lap but if she had been properly supervised and trained, she never would have done it.

    The school district also showed the Plaintiff a sticker warning affixed to the Gator indicating that before using the Gator, she should review the instruction manual for the Gator. She indicated that she had seen the warning, but never taken the time to read it. Instead, she contended that if she would have read a 70 page John Deere Gator manual that it would have kept her from having sat in someone’s lap and being tossed out of the vehicle.

    After a day and a half of testimony, the jury put 100% of the fault for this accident on the Plaintiff. A verdict for the Defendants entered and no appeal was taken.