$10 Million Awarded in Segway Fall Resulting in Brain Damage

We represented a young man who was asked to volunteer to ride a Segway Personal Transporter at a charity event and was not provided with a helmet. He fell off the Segway Personal Transporter and hit his head, resulting in the permanent loss of his sense of smell and a traumatic brain injury.

The “Segway Challenge” was an obstacle course with four legs. Each of four team members was asked to ride a Segway Personal Transporter through one leg of the obstacle course. Different handicaps were incorporated into each leg of the course. For instance, in one leg the rider would wear “drunk goggles”, which simulate the disorientation caused by being drunk. During the leg that our client rode, the rules called for him to be blindfolded.

In its owner’s manual and instructional video, Segway recommends that anyone riding a Segway Personal Transporter always wear a helmet. On the day in question, two Segway representatives who helped plan the event, and who brought the Personal Transporters to the event, forgot to bring helmets. When the Segway representatives instructed the volunteers on how to ride the Personal Transporters, the representatives did not tell the volunteers that Segway recommended they wear helmets. The Segway representatives then allowed the volunteers to ride through the obstacle course without helmets. Our client was almost finished with his leg of the course when he fell backwards off the Segway Personal Transporter and smashed the unprotected back of his head on the floor.

Our client suffered a subdural hematoma and subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding inside the skull), which resulted in encephalomalacia – softening of the brain. These injuries caused mild traumatic brain damage: trouble maintaining attention, problems with tasks requiring mental flexibility, and difficulty processing complex information at a normal rate.

The fall also caused our client to lose his sense of smell, which he will never regain, and left him with a reduced sense of taste.

At trial, we demonstrated that the Segway representatives were not just negligent, but reckless, because even though they realized the riders should not ride through the obstacle course without helmets, they allowed the event to go forward. Through the testimony of a biomechanical engineer, we showed that a helmet would have prevented our client’s injuries. Since our client’s injuries are not apparent to a casual observer, we hired a neuropsychologist, who evaluated and measured his injuries. The neuropsychologist explained to the jury our client’s cognitive deficits. A specialist in taste and smell explained how our client had lost his sense of smell.

The jury returned a verdict of $10 million, for our client’s non-economic (quality of life) damages. No economic damages were claimed.

Connecticut Law Tribune link:
Ex-Student Awarded $10M After Fall From Segway 1

1 Please note that the CT Law Tribune article, dated December 26, 2011, Vol. 37, No. 52 erroneously listed Mark Herceg, Ph.D. as the defense expert when in fact he was the Neuropsychologist Expert Witness for the plaintiff.

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