Clayton Devin and Laurie Elza successfully defended U. S. Kids Golf in a products liability case in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The surviving parents of a deceased twelve-year old boy alleged that their son’s death resulted from design and manufacturing defects in a steel golf club shaft. They sued U. S. Kids Golf, the designer and importer of the golf club.
The young man in question was an accomplished golfer and athlete who was playing in a family golf tournament during a holiday weekend. While playing in a group with his aunt and cousin, he hit his ball off a fairway and into a rough area of the course. He took a nine-iron steel shafted U. S. Kids Golf club and went to look for his ball while his aunt and cousin headed towards the green. His cousin recounted hearing a snapping sound shortly thereafter followed by a cry for help. The young golfer was found lying in the rough between the two fairways with a puncture wound in his neck, and the two pieces of a broken golf club lying beside him.
Forensic evidence determined that one of the fracture surfaces of the broken steel shaft had pierced the boy’s neck and severed his subclavian artery. He died shortly thereafter.
The Plaintiffs alleged that USKG’s attempts to design a club that was lighter and more flexible for young golfers had resulted in a shaft that was unable to withstand the club’s foreseeable uses. In response, USKG argued that the shaft design was based on a line of adult clubs that had been in the marketplace for many years, and that alternative designs offered by the Plaintiffs were not feasible or necessary for a safe product.
Plaintiffs also claimed that the shaft was made of inferior steel and that it broke because of a microscopic manufacturing defect during the shaft’s fabrication. USKG denied that the shaft contained a manufacturing defect.
After considering testimony offered by an accident reconstruction/human factors expert, competing metallurgists and product designers, the jury exonerated USKG, finding that the golf club was not defective.
The case was published in the September 23, 2009 issue of The Voice, a DRI Publication.