Florida residents may be as familiar with the "Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech" fight song as the students from Georgia Institute of Technology, about five hours northeast of Pensacola. An antique Ford has served as a football team mascot since the early 60s. Before then, other "Wrecks" represented the school's athletic team spirit.
The 1930's Model A is maintained by a school club, whose members vie to drive the vehicle around campus and during Yellow Jackets' home games. A student, standing on the automobile's running boards during a Ramblin' Wreck excursion in 2009, was injured after falling off the car.
According to the victim's liability claim, one of the two door handles the student used to secure his position broke off when the car turned. The student lost consciousness when he hit the road. The car accident injury caused temporary concussion-like symptoms and the permanent loss of the student's taste and smell.
The victim named the car's owners, the Georgia Tech's Board of Regents, and the Ramblin' Wreck's car servicing company in the complaint. A jury approved a $2 million damage award, after splitting the blame in three parts among the two defendants and the plaintiff. The student's portion of the reduced damages was $1.36 million.
An appeals' panel denied the school's motion for a directed verdict, which would have put the decision in a judge's hands. The defendants asserted the student did not present sufficient proof the door handles were unsafe. A former Ramblin' Wreck driver, involved in a 2007 accident with the mascot vehicle, earlier testified he warned the car servicer about the less than "robust" handles, the school-recommended safety grips for running board riders.
Appeals are available to defendants and plaintiffs. Defendants may pursue further litigation to frustrate a plaintiff's legal efforts. Time and cost are considerations for all parties, which is why many cases are resolved through settlements.
courthousenews.com, "Student Hurt in Mascot Mishap Owed $1.3 Million" Jeff D. Gorman, Sep. 27, 2013