R. Scott King, BSME ::::
A pair of golfing buddies sustained moderate injuries when the cart they were riding in overturned on a long, descending cart path. After the incident, the operator informed the course manager that he could not control the cart’s speed because the brakes did not operate. Recognizing the seriousness of the allegation, the manager immediately placed the cart out-of-service, loaded it on a flat bed trailer, and placed it in storage.
A few weeks later, the course carrier retained an engineer to conduct a non-invasive, non-destructive examination of the cart. Although nothing appeared out of the ordinary, a second inspection – one that included the cart manufacturer – was convened.
Prior to this inspection, engineers prepared and circulated a protocol outlining the various actions to be performed. The subsequent inspection progressed from a very general visual examination to detailed measurements of the relevant systems and components. Cart-specific literature and specifications were used throughout the inspection as the criteria for evaluating the various systems and components. Like the preliminary inspection, no abnormal conditions were identified and, as a result, engineers agreed to proceed to the final component of the protocol: testing.
A series of tests was developed to evaluate all phases of brake system operation and included not only the primary brake system, but also the internal motor brake, as well. As with the visual exam, manufacturer technical specifications were used to evaluate braking performance. Testing was performed at various locations on the course grounds and culminated with several passes down the cart path. On-board instrumentation, as well as video footage, documented the results.
At the end of the inspection and testing process, it was clear to all parties that the cart’s braking system operated as designed and well within specifications. Further, because of the careful, deliberate manner in which the inspection was conducted, plaintiffs had little option but to abandon their claims of product defect and poor maintenance. Thus, having eliminated mechanical issues, the course carrier was able to focus on operator and course design issues.
Ultimately, pertinent experts for the course carrier determined that operator selected speed was the proximate cause of the incident. These efforts helped minimize the course’s liability, resulting in a settlement significantly lower than the initial demand.
(R. Scott King, BSME can be reached at 215-659-2010 or via email at experts@forensicDJS.com)Case Studies