Leatt Corporation today announced that it has prevailed in the first Leatt-Brace lawsuit to be tried in the United States. After a two-week trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Eastern) ending on April 17, 2014, a federal jury returned a defense verdict for the Company in a product liability lawsuit brought by Scott Scarvelli and his parents, Tim and Sherri Scarvelli.
An avid cyclist and motocross enthusiast, Dr. Chris Leatt, the Company’s founder and head of research and development, created the Leatt-Brace about ten years ago to help reduce catastrophic neck injuries in extreme sports. Intended to be worn with a full-face helmet, the Leatt-Brace is designed to reduce extreme ranges of neck motion and create an Alternative Load Path for forces inflicted during accidents involving unrestrained motocross, ATV, mountain bike, snowboard, and snowmobile riders.
The Scarvellis had alleged that defective product design and failure to warn had caused Scott, a then fifteen year-old motocross rider, to suffer multiple mid-thoracic spine fractures, causing immediate and permanent paraplegia, when he crashed at a relatively low speed on February 13, 2011. When the accident occurred, Scott was wearing a helmet and other safety gear from several different companies, including the Company’s acclaimed Leatt-Brace. The Company produced evidence at trial showing that Scott’s thoracic paraplegia was an unavoidable consequence of his fall, not the result of wearing a Leatt-Brace, and that the brace likely saved his life — or saved him from quadriplegia — by preventing cervical spine injury.
“We are pleased with the outcome of this case,” Leatt chief executive officer Sean Macdonald said. “We have invested several years of research, development, and testing in all our products before introducing them into the marketplace, and a growing body of user experience and accident data show what we already know to be true — that the Leatt-Brace is both effective and safe.”
The Company has maintained from the onset that this and a small handful of other lawsuits are without merit and that it will vigorously defend itself in each case.
The case was tried by the Company's national trial counsel, John L. Tate, Stites & Harbison PLLC (Louisville, KY), assisted by Akron (OH) lawyers, Orville Reed and Jason Wiegand. Expert witnesses for the Company included Erick Knox, Ph.D., P.E., and Mitchell Garber, M.D., M.S. Mech. Eng., M.P.H., both with Engineering Systems, Inc., and John Bodnar, M.D., medical director for U.S. professional supercross and motocross races.
After trial the Scarvelli jury foreman said to Dr. Leatt: “Thank you for inventing the neck brace. You’re saving people’s lives.”