Boating-mishap victim awarded $21.7 million following testimony powered by Hayes + Associates reconstruction

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Reconstruction by Hayes & Associates, Inc., on the roles played by occupant dynamics and injury biomechanics in determining impact speed between a jet ski and a larger boat in 2008 contributed to the decision by a Los Angeles jury to award $21.7 million to a 20-year-old woman who suffered a permanent brain injury in the Riverside County incident.

Patrick J. Lee, P.E., was the lead Engineering Associate for the case. Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, Ph.D., H+A president, testified on behalf of the plaintiff in the July 2013 trial.

The products-defects lawsuit brought by Fabiola Esparza alleged that Polaris Industries Inc., manufacturer of the personal water craft, shared liability with the operator of the larger boat for the serious injuries she sustained in the accident on the Colorado River, leaving her with the mental capacity of a person four times younger and a life-long need for special care.

Reconstruction by Dr. Hayes and his associates demonstrated that on impact, Ms. Esparza, who was one of three passengers on the jet ski, struck the larger vessel and rebounded to strike the side of the Polaris craft, sustaining fractures and a serious head injury.

The plaintiff’s counsel argued that although the jet ski operator’s speed was less than 20 miles per hour and had further slowed when he became aware of the impending impact, the Polaris craft, a 2001 Virage, was defective in that it could not be steered after the operator cut the hand throttle.

Polaris discontinued manufacturing of personal watercraft in 2004.