Thursday, June 27, 2024

Crashworthiness Test Applied to Golf Cart in Accident Case

In the case of Suisi v. JH Global Services, Inc., No. 10604-2015, C.A. (C.P. Lawr. Co. Jan. 23, 2024 Hodge, J.), the court addressed issues arising out of injuries sustained by a Plaintiff during a golf cart accident.

According to the Opinion, the golf cart was designed by Defendant, JH Global, and sold to a licensed dealer. Prior to its sale, the golf cart was modified by the dealer with a lift kit designed and sold by another Defendant.

In this matter, the court addressed a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the manufacturer of the golf cart. 

According to the Opinion, the accident occurred when the Plaintiff was driving the golf cart on a roadway when the components of the steering mechanism, which were altered by the lift kit, failed.  The Plaintiff crashed and the Plaintiff was thrown approximately thirty (30) feet from the golf cart.

The Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that there was allegedly no support for a claim against JH Global as the designer of product that was impermissibly altered by a dealer and where the designer’s original parts were not the parts that failed during the course of the accident.

The Plaintiffs also subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that the record should demonstrate that the Defendants should have had knowledge that their carts were being modified and sold by their dealers that the Defendant designer did not adequately monitor and reprimand those actions, and that there was no sufficient warning within the warranty itself to convey the dangerous potential results of those modifications. The Plaintiff additionally asserted that the design of the cart invited modifications without appropriate safety mechanisms.

The court applied a 3-factor test for a defective design claim: whether a product could be designed to be safer, whether a design failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner, and if the designed caused the injury, whether the Plaintiff could demonstrate that a challenged feature outweighs the risk inherent in the design.

The court also applied the crash worthiness of a motor vehicle test to the golf cart as a matter of first impression. 

In this regard, the court noted that the crash worthiness of a motor vehicle test required the Plaintiff to prove (1) that the design was defective and that an alternative, safer and practical design existed and could have been incorporated at that time, (2) the injuries the Plaintiff would have received had the alternative design been used, and (3) what injuries were attributable to the defective design.

Here, the court found that the Plaintiff could not identify or offer an available alternative cart design that would have prevented the Plaintiff’s injuries. The alleged defect was that the cart enabled modifications that it was constructed to handle. The court noted that he Defendant’s warranty instructions said that the cart should not be modified.

The court found that a design that permitted modification of a catastrophically flawed lift kit was unintended and unforeseeable. As such, the court found that the Defendant was not responsible for manfuracturing each golf cart to withstand modifications and noted that the Defendant made a golf cart with additional safety measures when it is lifted, but the original purchaser did not buy that model.

As such, the court found that the design defects alleged by the Plaintiff were without merit.

On the claim of an inadequate warning of the possible consequences of modifying the golf cart, the court stated that the Plaintiff was required to provide proof that the lack of warning rendered the cart unreasonably dangerous and that it was approximate cause of the injury. The court denied summary judgment on the failure to warn claim, finding that this claim presented issues to be resolved by the jury.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “The Legal Intelligencer Common Pleas Case Alert” (May 8, 2024).\

Source of image:  Photo by Cristina Ann Costello from

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