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Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. Wins $17M+ in Defective Product Brain Injury Case*

Posted By Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. | 29-Apr-2016

Tom Rhodes, Bob Brzezinski, and Erin Oglesby of Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C., together with August Toudouze of Toudouze Law, and with the assistance of Sam Royston, recently obtained a jury verdict of $17,047,000 for a teenage boy injured by a defective product designed, sold, and manufactured by the defendant company. Our client was attending a Christian youth convention, where he sustained a serious and permanent brain injury as a result of participating in a bouncy-boxing match in which an opponent repeatedly struck our client in the head with the company’s product. The defective product at issue was the company’s oversized boxing gloves, which were designed, manufactured, and sold by the company’s sole officer, president, and owner.

We alleged that warnings and instructions associated with the gloves were defective, and the company was negligent in designing and warning of risks and instructing use of its oversized gloves. The product designer and manufacturer had no background in product design or engineering, engaged in no testing or research, and consulted with no outside sources in creating a product that had the sole purpose of inviting children, aged three and above, to repeatedly punch each other in the head and body. The “design process” included a single non-technical drawing which was sent to a seamstress, who sewed the product together. The company performed absolutely no testing or research regarding the appropriate materials and polymers to use in the gloves. In fact, the company’s only “testing” was to have employees and children of employees go at it with the gloves.

The gloves’ padding was both insufficient in terms of its polymer and material makeup, and lacking in that the only area seemingly protected was the front of the fist. The wrist and thumb areas, on the other hand, were exposed, which lead to fist-to-face blows being landed on our client. Additionally, the gloves weighed nearly five pounds each. This weight made matters worse because participants would get tired after straight-on punching with jabs and would instead punch rotationally with hooks. As participants’ arms further tired, they would stop guarding their faces and heads. Rotational punching with this product was an issue because plaintiffs presented expert testimony at trial that rotational impact forces to the head are more capable of producing serious brain injuries, and the unprotected area of participants fists were more likely to come in straight contact with an opponent’s head.

Additionally, there were no warnings regarding the risks associated with use of the gloves and no instructions regarding the proper use of the gloves was present anywhere on the product or with anything associated with the bouncy boxing activity (e.g., the inflatable boxing ring, the owner’s manual, etc.) In fact, there were no instructions or warnings of any kind on the gloves, nor was there any information on the gloves identifying the defendant company as the designer and manufacturer.

The company contested our client’s injury, arguing that our client suffered no head injury, but rather that our client had underlying psychiatric issues which produced his symptoms. This defense was partly based on the fact that our client’s MRIs and CT scans were negative, but medical experts agreed at trial that most injuries of our client’s type would not be visible on traditional imaging scans and defendant's experts agreed that injuries of this type normally produce negative imaging. Plaintiffs presented expert medical testimony from a physician who performed an enhanced MRI with diffuse tensor imaging (DTI), which showed objective evidence of our client’s brain injury. The company contested the reliability of DTI, and maintained that it was an emerging technology, not useful in clinical settings. Nonetheless, the company’s attempt largely failed when its neuro-radiology expert was excluded because she admitted to having no experience with DTI.

The defendant company also argued that our client’s injuries, if any, resulted from our client removing his headgear during part of the fight. Plaintiff presented the only applicable expert testimony, which explained that the headgear would have had no effect.

Additionally, the company blamed our client’s injuries on a lack of supervision from the church and youth chaperones, and from the entity that organized the youth convention. Testimony from lay and expert witnesses established several periods in which the convention’s assigned supervisor of the boxing activity (a 19-year-old bible college student with no medical or boxing background) was not supervising the activity. The company’s other argument was that the injuries were caused by the inflatable rental company’s failure to give proper instructions to the youth leaders and chaperones regarding the supervision of participants. Testimony showed that the rental company failed to explain the importance of close supervision of the activity.

After an eleven-day trial, the jury awarded our client $10,547,000 in actual damages and $6,500,000 in punitive damages against the company that made and sold the oversized boxing gloves. The jury assessed 30% of the fault against the company, 1% against our client, 4% against our client’s church, 30% against our client’s church’s governing body, and 35% against the inflatable rental company. The other entities settled before trial.

To get in touch with the San Antonio personal injury lawyers at Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C., please call us at (210) 265-6543.

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