United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION IN LIMINE TO
EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OF OTHER ACCIDENTS, LAWSUITS, AND CLAIMS OF
FRONT BRAKE ISSUES ON GSX-R MOTORCYCLES
T. WINGATE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
THIS COURT is the defendants' Motion in Limine
to Exclude Evidence of Other Accidents, Lawsuits, and Claims
of Front Brake Issues on GSX-R Motorcycles [Docket
no. 270]. By its motion Suzuki Motor Corp.
(hereinafter referred to as “SMC”) asks this
court to exclude all evidence of specific other incidents
involving GSX-R motorcycles and the related front brake
master cylinder (hereinafter referred to as
“FBMC”) at issue here. According to SMC, those
other incidents - some of which resulted in lawsuits filed
against SMC - are irrelevant and must be excluded because
they are not “substantially similar” to the facts
of the lawsuit sub judice. Further, says SMC, the
introduction of the pleadings of the other lawsuits are
hearsay. Finally, SMC says that the introduction of such
other incidents would be unfairly prejudicial to it.
oppose SMC's motion in limine saying that the other
incidents are relevant and that, while such are prejudicial,
the introduction of such would not be unfairly prejudicial.
motion in limine is necessarily fact driven and, thus, this
court will recite a brief synopsis of the facts as this court
appreciates them based upon the submissions of the parties.
“It is well settled that, before evidence of other
crashes can be admitted into evidence, a plaintiff must
present a factual foundation for the court to determine that
the other crashes were ‘substantially similar' to
the crash at issue.” Graves ex rel. W.A.G. v.
Toyota Motor Corp., No. 2:09CV169KS-MTP, 2012 WL 32960,
at *2 (S.D.Miss. Jan. 6, 2012) (Citing Mills v. Beech
Aircraft Corp., Inc., 886 F.2d 758, 762 (5th Cir.1989);
McGonigal v. Gearhart Industries, Inc., 851 F.2d
774, 778 (5th Cir.1986); Jackson v. Firestone Tire &
Rubber Co., 788 F.2d 1070, 1082-83 (5th Cir.1986)).
Brad Stubblefield (hereinafter referred to as
“Stubblefield”) purchased a used Suzuki GSX-R
1000 in 2010 from a private seller in the State of Georgia.
After he purchased the motorcycle, Stubblefield rode the
motorcycle most days to work - excepting when the weather did
not allow, for example when the roads were icy or the weather
called for severe storms. Stubblefield personally maintained
his motorcycle, following SMC's recommended maintenance
January 12, 2012, Stubblefield was riding the subject
motorcycle to work and was attempting to utilize the on-ramp
for Interstate 55 South near Madison, Mississippi. Acccording
to eyewitnesses, they did not observe Stubblefield attempt to
apply his brakes, front or rear. Stubblefield, for some
reason(s) that the parties vigorously contest, did not turn
onto the on-ramp; instead, he traveled across the cement gore
and into a ravine. When he reached the bottom of the ravine,
Stubblefield crashed and the motorcycle came to a rest laying
atop of him. Stubblefield allegedly became a paraplegic as a
result of the accident. Stubblefield has no recollection of
the date of his accident.
and his family thought that the reason for the accident was
that Stubblefield had lost control of the subject motorcycle
while transiting the gravel in the roadway immediately before
the concrete gore. The Stubblefields persisted in this notion
until SMC issued a product recall on October 18, 2013, at
which point they changed their opinion about what had caused
the subject accident.
Augustine (hereinafter referred to as
“Augustine”), a resident of New Orleans,
Louisiana, purchased a used 2009 GSX-R 1000 in a used
condition from a private seller in July 2015, without any
knowledge of the prior maintenance or accident history of his
motorcycle. Augustine rode his motorcycle for recreational
purposes only - putting 1, 900 miles on the motorcycle since
he had purchased the vehicle ten (10) months before.
Augustine performed no maintenance on his motorcycle.
date unknown to this court, Augustine rode his motorcycle for
approximately nine (9) miles and stopped fourteen (14) times.
After his initial ride, Augustine parked his motorcycle for a
few hours and then rode it again later that same day. During
his subsequent ride, Augustine allegedly experienced a loss
of his front brake pressure when he first applied his front
brake requiring him to “bail-off” of his
motorcycle. As a result of his “bailing off”
Augustine suffered scrapes and sore muscles. After his
accident, SMC says that an inspection of Augustine's
motorcycle revealed a leaking brake line. Allegedly, the
recall work had never been performed after Augustine's
accident, but his friends performed repairs, after which
Augustine said his motorcycle performed as expected.
Knepper (hereinafter referred to as “Knepper”)
purchased a 2008 GSX-R 600 motorcycle in a used condition
from a private seller in 2011. Knepper experienced two (2)
accidents on his motorcycle. On September 28, 2012, Knepper
rode his motorcycle approximately 30-40 miles to another town
and experienced no issues. When he was returning from that
other town, a pickup truck in front of Knepper vigorously
applied its brakes causing Knepper to do the same. Knepper
was unable to stop his motorcycle completely. He struck the
rear of the pick up and went over the handlebars. Knepper
ultimately landed in the pickup truck's bed with no major
injuries. Knepper parked his motorcycle for several month
before repairing and riding it again.
5, 2013, Knepper rode his motorcycle to a location near his
home and applied his front brake 15-20 times before arriving
at his destination. When he was returning home, a pickup
truck made an abrupt left turn in front of Knepper, again
forcing Knepper to rapidly apply his brakes. Knepper was
travelling 50-55 miles per hour and could not stop - he hit
the left rear wheel of the pickup truck. Knepper required no
medical attention and he rode his motorcycle home after the
accident. From the pleadings, this court is unable to discern
if the parties allege that Knepper lost front brake pressure
during either accident.
Nichols (hereinafter referred to as “Nichols”)
purchased a GSX-R 600 in a used condition from a private
seller in 2010 or 2011. Nichols experienced front brake
issues for weeks before his accident - he would lose front
brake pressure while riding, but restore it by pumping the
front brake lever several times while riding. On the date of
his accident, Nichols had ridden his motorcycle all day
without incident. During the late evening hours, while
riding, Nichols allegedly lost front brake pressure while in
a curve and lost control of his motorcycle. Nichols ran into
a ditch and his motorcycle eventually came to a rest in the
road where it was struck by another vehicle. This court
cannot determine whether Nichols sustained any injury.
Trujillo (hereinafter referred to as “Trujillo”)
purchased a new GSX-R 600 from a dealership. Trujillo left
her motorcycle parked for a period of two (2) months without
riding it. On the date of her accident, she tested her front
brake before operating the motorcycle and it functioned as
expected. Trujillo then took her motorcycle for a ride and
within minutes both her front and rear brakes stopped
Girard (hereinafter referred to as “Girard”)
bought a 2007 GSX-R 600 in a new condition in April 2007.
Girard operated his motorcycle for six (6) years, storing it
for approximately half of the year (from late fall through
the spring). Girard never had issues with his brakes. On the
date of his accident, Girard allegedly was involved in a
single vehicle accident. There were no eyewitness, no police
reports, and no injuries. Girard kept his motorcycle,
repaired it, and at least as late as August 26, 2017, still
rode it without issue.
Winkler (hereinafter referred to as “Winkler”)
brought a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of the Fourth Judicial
Circuit of Duval County, Florida. (Winkler v. Suzuki
Motor Corp. et al, No. 16-2014-CA-004130; Division
CV-G). Winkler substantially modified his motorcycle, so much
so that it was no longer considered street
legal. Winkler had raced his motorcycle earlier
in the day at Roeblin Track in southern Georgia. Winkler had
replaced the brake fluid two (2) days earlier. While driving
at night, Winkler struck another vehicle that had turned in
front of him. According to SMC, within minutes of his
accident, Winkler tested his front brake and found that it
performed as expected.
Soulliere (hereinafter referred to as
“Soulliere”) filed a lawsuit in the
Superior Court of California, Orange County (No.
30-2015-00790644) after having an accident where another
vehicle abruptly pulled out in front of Soulliere. In
Soulliere's case, he is no longer in possession of the
motorcycle, therefore, the FBMC cannot be compared to that of