United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division, Lafayette
BROCK C. LYONS, Plaintiff,
LEATT CORPORATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
[DE 62], filed by Defendant Leatt Corporation on May 1, 2017.
Plaintiff Brock C. Lyons filed a response on May 30, 2017,
and Defendant filed a reply on June 12, 2017. Because expert
testimony is required for Plaintiff to prove his claims and
because the Court has excluded the opinions of
Plaintiff's experts, the Court grants Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Brock Lyons alleges that he was
injured on April 13, 2014, when the Moto GPX Sport
Leatt-Brace, advertised, marketed, distributed, and promoted
by Defendant Leatt Corporation, “caused and/or failed
to protect Plaintiff from serious bodily injury” while
Plaintiff used the brace in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
is brought under the Indiana Products Liability Act, alleging
that Defendant should be held strictly liable as a designer,
manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the brace, which was
in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous to
expected users such as Plaintiff. Count II alleges a claim of
breach of warranty for failing to protect Plaintiff from
serious bodily injury, alleging that Defendant made implied
and express warranties that the brace was reasonably fit for
the general uses and purposes intended and that it was free
of any defects in its design or construction. Count III
alleges that Defendant negligently designed, manufactured,
marketed, and distributed the brace in such a manner that it
created an unreasonable risk of physical harm and injury and
that Defendant failed to warn of the known and foreseeable
hazard of the brace. Count IV alleges gross negligence and
seeks punitive damages. On November 10, 2015, the Court
dismissed Count V, which alleges deceptive and misleading
advertising and marketing.
1, 2017, Defendant filed motions to exclude the expert
witness testimony of Plaintiff's proffered expert
witnesses, Tyler Kress, Ph.D. and Ryan Hughes. On September
14, 2017, the Court granted both motions, excluding the
opinions of Dr. Kress and Mr. Hughes.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a motion for
summary judgment be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Rule 56 “mandates the entry of
summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon
motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “Summary
judgment is appropriate when no material fact is disputed and
the moving parties are entitled to judgment as a matter of
law, meaning that no reasonable jury could find for the other
party based on the evidence in the record.” Carman
v. Tinkes, 762 F.3d 565, 566 (7th Cir. 2014).
seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a), (c). The
moving party may discharge its initial responsibility by
simply “‘showing'-that is, pointing out to
the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325; see also Spierer v.
Rossman, 798 F.3d 502, 508 (7th Cir. 2015). When the
nonmoving party would have the burden of proof at trial, the
moving party is not required to support its motion with
affidavits or other similar materials negating the
opponent's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 325;
Spierer, 798 F.3d at 507-08; Modrowski v.
Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168-69 (7th Cir. 2013).
the moving party puts forth evidence showing the absence of a
genuine dispute of material fact, the burden shifts to the
non-moving party to provide evidence of specific facts
creating a genuine dispute.” Carroll v. Lynch,
698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012). The non-moving party
cannot resist the motion and withstand summary judgment by
merely resting on its pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1), (e); Flint v. City of Belvidere, 791 F.3d
764, 769 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The nonmoving
party must “do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)
(1986)). Rule 56(e) provides that “[i]f a party fails
to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly
address another party's assertion of fact as required by
Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed
for purposes of the motion [or] grant summary judgment if the
motion and supporting materials-including the facts
considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it
. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50.
viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment,
a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to
the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences in
favor of that party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;
McDowell v. Vill. of Lansing, 763 F.3d 762, 764, 765
(7th Cir. 2014); Srail v. Vill. of Lisle, 588 F.3d
940, 948 (7th Cir. 2009). A court's role is not to
evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility
of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter but
instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of
triable fact. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
following are the material facts supported by the evidence of
record. Defendant Leatt Corporation is the
manufacturer, seller, and distributer of the Moto GPX
Leatt-Brace (Leatt Brace). (ECF 83-2, pp. 4-5 (Resp. to
Inter. No. 4)). The purpose of the Leatt Brace “is
to reduce neck forces in various combinations and at various
times during a crash” with the “aim [of reducing]
the incidence and severity of cervical spine trauma,
especially in situations involving an unrestrained human
torso.” Id. at p. 12 (Resp. to Inter. No.
The Leatt Brace is sometimes referred to as the “helmet
for your neck.” Id. According to Leatt's
white paper, “Research and Development Efforts towards
the Production of the Leatt-Brace® Moto GPX Unrestrained
Torso Neck Brace” (“White Paper”), fifteen
criteria were used in developing the Leatt Brace, including
the following four listed by Plaintiff in his brief:
- To find the best compromise between decreasing dangerous
ranges of motion, neck forces and impulse momentum
relationships, whilst maintaining driver/rider usability.
- To prevent extreme ranges of motion producing/associated
- To maintain [range of motion (ROM)] to the extent that
overly restricted ROM would result in high axial forces,
i.e., to preserve the head's ability to move out of the
way of the impact force.
- To allow the neck to continue to move in order to reduce
compression injuries, but to prevent the extreme movement
that can produce injury.
(ECF 83-3, p. 3-4 (White Paper, pp. 44-45)).
White Paper further explains, in the section titled
“Allowable ROM, ” that the Leatt Brace
“restricts extreme ranges of movement that cause injury
but allows sufficient freedom of movement so as not to
transmit excessive forces to the helmet or to limit vision
below that required for safe and competitive
operation.” Id. at p. 5 (White Paper, p.
In its sworn interrogatory response, Defendant explains,
“The rationale of the Leatt-Brace® is to bring a
rapidly moving, out-of-control head to a controlled stop and,
in the process, to reduce or eliminate the potential for
serious neck injury.” (ECF 63-1, p. 16 (Resp. to Inter.
No. 12)). Defendant further explains in the interrogatory
In some accident scenarios, the cervical spine can experience
forces that do not, at least initially, involve flexion or
extension of the neck but instead are predominantly axial in
nature. Axial force (measured in Newtons) is that which
occurs in the longitudinal direction of the cervical spine,
i.e., parallel to the spine. . . . When it is
excessive, an axial load can damage the IV discs and cause
them to rupture or, in extreme cases, cause the vertebral
bodies to fracture. Fractured vertebral bodies can damage the
associated spinal cord segment and result in paralysis or
Id. at p. 17.
American Motorcyclist Association does not require a rider to
wear a neck brace because the track physicians determined
that there was not “enough medical data to conclusively
show that they were more beneficial from a medical scientific
perspective.” (ECF 83-4, pp. 4-5 (Bodnar Dep., pp.
Brock C. Lyons was a professional ATV racer and motocross
rider who began riding ATVs and motorcycles when he was three
years old. (ECF 83-5, pp. 2-4 (Pl. Dep., pp. 69-71)). At age
16, Plaintiff began professionally racing ATVs; in 2012, he
switched to racing motorcycles on the amateur level.
Id. at pp. 3, 5, 21 (Pl. Dep., pp. 70, 72, 124).
2007, Plaintiff purchased a Leatt Brace “to protect
[his] neck and back.” Id. at pp. 13, 14 (Pl.
Dep., pp. 105, 107). After purchasing the Leatt Brace,
Plaintiff reviewed instructional videos and adjusted the
thoracic struts of the brace pursuant to the recommendations.
Id. at pp. 22, 23 (Pl. Dep., pp. 134, 135).
Plaintiff testified that the Leatt Brace affected his ability
to ride by limiting the range of motion in his neck,
shoulders, and head. Id. at p. 24 (Pl. Dep., p.
143). However, Plaintiff wore the Leatt Brace “every
time [he] rode” (except for snowmobiles) for seven
years, from 2007 until his injury in 2014, including his last
year of professional-level competition on the ATV racing
circuit. (ECF 71-5, pp. 106, 113, 114, 115, 142 (Pl. Dep.)).
April 13, 2014, Plaintiff Brock C. Lyons was riding his
motorcycle at Wildcat Creek MX track in Rossville, Indiana.
(ECF 64-1, p. 7); (ECF 83-5, p. 149). He was wearing his
Leatt Brace and his 6D helmet. (ECF 64-1, p. 7). When he rode
over a “step up” jump, he landed “nose
high” on the back tire at ¶ 55 degree attitude and
was sent over the handle bars when he was unable to bring the
nose of the bike down by getting his weight forward on the
bike. (ECF 64-1, p. 7); (ECF 83-5, p. 149). Plaintiff
estimates that the speed at which he left the motorcycle was
approximately 40 to 45 miles per hour and that he traveled 10
to 15 feet in the air before he impacted the ground. (ECF
64-1, p. 10).
following excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition regarding
the crash are cited by Plaintiff in his brief:
Q Now, I know the experience of having your hands, like, torn
off the handlebars. You're trying to hold on.
A Uh-huh, yeah.
Q But you had no chance to hold on. You went straight over
the bars with the slap.
A Yes, Yes.
Q What do you recall about first contacting the track?
A When I came off the bike?
A I went to the left side, and I tried to tuck my head into
an Army roll. Bear with me. Sorry. So when I tried to do
that, I came down. And I remember hitting, and it peeled my
head back fast. I tried to roll, and when I hit, it shoved my
whole head back, and I wasn't able - typically an Army
roll would be the best. I tried to tuck and roll, and I
wasn't able to. It caught the ground and pushed my head
back. And as soon as it did that, I felt everything go numb,
and then I rolled down the hill.
(ECF 83-5, p. 33 (Pl. Dep., pp. 173: 6-25, 174:1-2)).
Q What impacted what to force your head back, as you've
A The ground. When I went to go down, I couldn't tuck my
head. So my visor caught and - because all the weight,
I'm going forward. It's head first. I'm trying to
tuck so I can just do my roll out. And I couldn't tuck,
and it just shoved my head back.
Q What was the attitude of the rest of your body when your
A Are you familiar with a scorpion?
A Are you familiar with that term for -
Q I am.
A I did a scorpion.
A Instead of tucking into a ball and rolling, my head hit, my
back arched, my legs came up, and I looked ...