I wrote several years ago that Kawasaki Lets the Good Times Roll.... because I loved my little 650R and the first Kawi I rode on, a 1973 900 Z-1. But my high school friend Leo Beauregard was paralyzed after the sidestand on his KZ750 twin deployed without warning. I believe he is still living in Cleveland, unlike Scott Thompson, who died in Iowa. Kawasaki is on the hook, and rightfully so. They ignored the clear meaning of an email sent from an Ohlin's representative that warned that the steering damper on the 2007 ZX 10R was basically ineffective. I posted the Decision denying Summary Judgment but here's the guts of the matter and as you read this, keep in mind these bastards weaseled out of an emissions muffler replacement on my 650R, even though I was traveling when it expired and missed the cutoff by a couple hundred miles. So I hope Mr. Thompson's estate sues the nuts out of these cut-corner motherfuckers.
Estate of Thompson v. Kawasaki Heavy Indus., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17796
At about sunset on March 21, 2009, Scott Thompson was riding his 2007 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R motorcycle in a convoy with two friends on county road K-22 in Plymouth County, Iowa. One of Thompson's friends, Dave Lachioma, who was also riding a motorcycle, led the convoy, the other friend, Michael Welter, followed in his car, and Thompson brought up the rear on his motorcycle. While driving northbound on K-22, Thompson passed Welter, who was driving at 60 to 65 mph. A few seconds after Thompson passed him, Welter observed the taillight of Thompson's motorcycle wobble from side to side. Although Welter observed that it looked like Thompson was regaining control of his motorcycle, Thompson was tossed from the motorcycle, [*4] slid on his back, feet first, across the highway, and landed in a ditch on the west side of the highway. The motorcycle continued upright in the northbound lane for another several hundred feet, before exiting the highway on the east side. As a result of the accident, Thompson suffered a burst fracture at the T3-T4 vertebrae, causing paralysis below that level. Thompson died on December 25, 2011.
The parties agree that both the 2006 model and the 2007 model Ninja ZX-10R motorcycles are part of Kawasaki's 1010 motorcycle platform and that they have the identical chassis. Indeed, they agree that the only difference between the 2006 and the 2007 model year Ninja ZX-10R is that the steering dampers on the two models are different. In over a year-and-a half of development of the model year 2006 Ninja ZX-10R motorcycle, Kawasaki selected the Ohlins model SD-1790 steering damper with specific dampening levels and values that Kawasaki believed provided the optimal performance for the customer and the best fit for the 2006 model year. On March 10, 2006, however, Kawaski made the decision to modify the steering damper on the 2007 Ninja [*7] ZX-10R by reducing the dampening value. This decision followed a test ride in which the mounting bracket for the steering damper failed.
The parties agree that, on April 11, 2006, Mr. Björkman, an Ohlins design engineer, wrote an e-mail to Kawasaki about the change, in which he stated, "I don't think you want very much less damping either, because there is almost no function left." Plaintiffs' Appendix at 47, Exhibit 3. The parties dispute whether Mr. Björkman was stating a safety concern or simply relaying performance concerns from racing customers. Ultimately, Kawasaki selected the Ohlins model SD-1791 steering damper for the 2007 Ninja ZX-10R motorcycle to replace the SD-1790 steering damper that had been used on the 2006 Ninja ZX-10R. Although the parties dispute the precise values, they agree that the steering damper on the 2007 Ninja ZX-10R model had significantly less viscous dampening for the motorcycle system (a maximum of 1750 newtons at .6 meters per second) than the steering damper on the 2006 Ninja ZX-10R (a maximum of either 4000 or 3600 newtons at .6 meters per second).
FOOTNOTES 4 The irony is not lost on me of the Thompsons' reliance on Björkman's April 11, 2006, e-mail to Okabe stating, "I don't think you want very much less damping either, because then there is almost no function left," to support both their contention that Ohlins "substantially participated" in the design of the motorcycle, so that Ohlins should be liable for a "design defect," and on Kawasaki's rejection of that "warning," so that Kawasaki should be liable for punitive damages for the purported "design defect."
Upon the foregoing, 1. KHI's and KMC's November 5, 2012, joint Motion For Partial Summary Judgment (docket no. 64) is granted in part and denied in part, as follows: a. The Motion is granted as to the "manufacturing defect" claim in Count I, the "breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose" claim in Count II, and the "negligence" claim in Count III, but b. The motion is denied as to the "design defect" claim in Count I, and the prayer of "punitive damages" on that underlying cause of action in Count VIII. 2. Ohlins's November 27, 2011, Supplemental (Amended And Substituted) Motion For Summary Judgment (docket no. 71) isgranted in its entirety, and Ohlins is dismissed from this action. 3. This action will proceed to trial only on the "design [*58] defect" claim against KHI and KMC in Count I and the prayer for "punitive damages" on that underlying cause of action in Count VIII. -- Christopher King, J.D. http://KingCast.net -- Reel News for Real People http://MortgageMovies.blogspot.com -- Documenting Deceit 617.543.8085/m 866.215.1207/f