In a rare move last week, Morris County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Brennan increased an award granted by a civil jury to a 61-year-old Sparta man who lost his right leg as a result of a 2005 snowmobile accident. (1)
The jury in the product liability case against Yamaha Motor Co., manufacturer of the snowmobile, found in favor of Dennis Mohr and awarded him $1,107,000 for pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost income. Of that amount, $100,000 was specifically awarded for pain and suffering. Mohr’s lawyer argued that amount was inconsistent with the severity of Mohr’s injury and filed a motion for an additur. Judge Brennan agreed, adding $900,000 to the settlement, bringing the total to slightly more than $2 million. (2)
Mohr’s injury occurred in February 2005. When the 1995 Yamaha VX600V-R snowmobile Mohr borrowed from his friend wasn’t running smoothly, Mohr and two friends tried to fix the snowmobile. During the process the metal track on which the snowmobile rides broke and the embedded studs tore into Mohr’s leg, severing it about two-thirds of the way. Doctors’ attempts to save the leg failed and it was amputated right above the knee just days after the accident.
Although the jury did not find the snowmobile to be faulty, it did determine that Yamaha failed to provide sufficient warning labels concerning the hazards and safety of the vehicle. Yahama countered that such warnings were included in the owner’s manual. (3)
At the trial Mohr, owner of a heavy equipment company, testified that he continues to feel phantom pain in his right leg for which he regularly takes morphine. He also testified that, due to his injury, he can no longer operate heavy equipment. (2)
Usually judges do not like to go against jury decisions by granting additurs or reducing awards and will only do so in cases where they believe a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
Yamaha does have the option to appeal the verdict. (2)