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Ford v. Polaris Industries, Inc.

43 Cal. Rptr. 3d 215 (2006)

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Ford v. Polaris Industries, Inc.

California Court of Appeal

43 Cal. Rptr. 3d 215 (2006)

Facts

Susan Ford and her husband, Anthony (plaintiffs), went to Lake Berryessa with Steve and Laura Nakamura (defendant) for a picnic. The Nakamuras owned two jet skis manufactured by Polaris Industries, Inc. (Polaris) (defendant). Susan went out with Laura for a ride on one of the jet skis. Susan rode behind Laura, holding onto Laura’s waist. Laura told Susan that she was holding onto Laura too tightly. Susan leaned back and held instead to two grab handles behind her. Shortly thereafter Susan was bumped off the jet ski, falling backward into the water directly behind the jet nozzle. The jet nozzle’s high-pressure stream of water penetrated Susan’s body, causing severe hernial and rectal injury. Susan underwent two surgeries and multiple blood transfusions. Afterwards, she was unable to urinate without a catheter and nerve damage made her numb from her right knee to her waist. The Fords sued Polaris for strict products liability and sued Laura for negligence. Laura moved for summary judgment, arguing that Susan assumed the risk of falling out of the watercraft while maneuvering in the water. The trial court granted Laura’s motion. Polaris moved for summary judgment, arguing that primary assumption of risk also barred the Fords’ claims against it. The trial court denied Polaris’s motion, explaining that unlike Laura, Polaris owed Susan a duty to provide a product free of defects. The jury found in favor of the Fords, awarding them damages of nearly $3,750,000. Polaris appealed. On appeal, Polaris argued that the trial court erred in deciding that the primary assumption of the risk did not bar Susan from recovery.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reardon, J.)

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