A Florida jury has awarded $3.6 million to the family of a 13-year-old who was killed in an ATV accident four years ago. Jurors found that the family that owned the all-terrain vehicle was negligent in the September 2003 crash that happened in a gated Delray beach community, according to an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Parents of the teenager – Duane and Cathy Hennarichs – sued Roger and Karen Fina, owners of the ATV. The Hennarichs’ daughter, Sara, died riding an ATV that was meant for those 16 and older, the article stated. Jurors ruled that the Finas along with their 17-year-old son were negligent and hence liable for Sara’s death. Jurors assigned most of the liability to the Finas, 15 percent to a third party and 5 percent to Sara herself.
Sara’s parents reportedly heaved a sigh of relief because they said it was a confirmation of what they believed all along – that it was not their daughter’s fault that she died. The decision and the award will not bring their daughter back or fill the void in their lives, but will help them move on to some extent, an attorney for the Hennarichs told the Sun-Sentinel.
During the trial that lasted almost a week, the Finas told the court that they knew about cautionary stickers on the ATV and were aware of details in the owner’s manual that specifically stated that riders of the vehicle must be at least 16 years old. Still, they let Sara take the vehicle. Although she was wearing a helmet, it didn’t protect her from the crash when Sara lost control, veered off and hit a tree. Sara and her passenger were thrown off the vehicle.
The Finas’ attorney argued that it was just a “tragic and unfortunate accident” and that his clients must not be made to bear sole responsibility for what happened.
ATVs have been put down by many as “death machines” and for good reason. Every year, we see numerous incidents where young people suffer serious injuries or fatal injuries as a result of riding an ATV they were not capable of handling in the first place. In 2005 alone, government reports indicate that there were 467 deaths and 136,700 emergency room visits relating to ATV use. Parents must most importantly realize that ATVs are not toys. They are powerful vehicles that can reach speeds higher than 100mph. If your child is not old enough to drive a car, he or she should not be on an ATV.
But if you do let them ride one, please make sure they are supervised, are wearing safety gear and riding on safe terrain. Remember that you can be held liable for a death that occurs under your watch on an ATV that you own. If children or teenagers do ride these vehicles under your watch, please make sure that all safety precautions have been taken. For more information on ATV safety, please visit the following Web sites:
By: Staff Writer