After a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) rollover in rural South Carolina left one teenage girl dead and another seriously injured, Yarborough Applegate attorneys Douglas E. Jennings and John Dodds IV secured a $10 million settlement on behalf of the two young victims and their families.
The plaintiffs, a 14-year-old and 15-year-old, had joined their 14-year-old friend on a rural farm property for the weekend. The plaintiffs were passengers on the UTV, and were accompanied by an adult parent—and owner of the property—of the 14-year-old friend, who was driving.
Tragically, prior to the UTV rollover a number of critical safety considerations were ignored or blatantly overridden. The girls were not given helmets, nor were they instructed on how to operate the UTV before taking off. Though the UTV was affixed with manufacturer markings instructing that no one under the age of 16 should operate the vehicle, the plaintiffs’ 14-year-old friend was the one behind the wheel. No one on the vehicle was wearing restraints—in fact, the driver’s seatbelt was buckled behind the children in order to bypass the manufacturer’s speed limitation.
When the UTV rolled over, one of the girls was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. The other passenger suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to the hospital.
All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Act
Much of this case hinged on interpretation of the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Act, also known as Chandler’s Law, and whether it applies to UTVs. Passed by the South Carolina Legislature in 2011, the act establishes crucial safety requirements and regulations for children who operate all terrain vehicles (ATVs).
The All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Act mandates:
- If a child is under age 16 and does not have a driver’s license is operating the vehicle, they are not allowed to have passengers
- Children ages 15 and younger must wear helmets and goggles
- It is unlawful for a parent or legal guardian of a child under 16 to knowingly allow their child to operate an ATV in violation of an age-restriction warning label attached by the manufacturer
The global settlement represented the full policy limits of all liability and umbrella policies insuring the defendants and a multimillion-dollar personal contribution by the defendants.