Student Hurt in Mascot Mishap Owed $1.3 Million
(CN) - A Georgia Tech student deserves $1.36 million in damages after falling off the Ramblin' Wreck, a Model A Ford that the school uses as a mascot, an appeals court ruled.
The restored 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe is the first "official" Ramblin' Wreck that Georgia Tech unveiled at a football game since 1961. Previous Ramblin' Wrecks had been owned by students, faculty and alumni dating back to 1914, according to the school's website.
Maintenance of the current car is entrusted to Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck Club, which uses the car to promote school spirit. Driver is a coveted club position that probationary first year members strive toward by washing the car, wearing the club's shirt and performing other such activities.
The car has appeared at every Georgia Tech home football game since 1961, but club members also drive it around campus in between games to pump up fans of the Yellow Jackets. On these drives, club members sometimes stand on the running boards outside of the car.
Nicholas Brown had been standing on a running board one day in April 2009 as members of the club drove the car back to the garage.
He had been holding onto an exterior handle and an interior handle, as he had been taught, but one of the handles snapped off as the driver made a left turn. Brown fell into the street and blacked out, still grasping the handle.
Brown spent four days in the hospital. While his dizziness, nausea and balance problems cleared up, he lost his senses of smell and taste permanently.
In an ensuing negligence lawsuit, Brown sought damages from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, which owned the car, as well as Eco-Clean Inc., which had repaired it after a 2007 accident.
A jury awarded Brown $2 million, but subtracted 32 percent of the total based on Brown's own liability. Eco-Clean and the Board of Regents were found liable for 34 percent, or $680,000 each.
The defendants appealed, and Brown also argued that he should have been allowed to present an expert witness. The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the ruling Tuesday.
"Because some evidence introduced at the trial authorized the jury to determine that the Board of Regents was liable under an agency theory for the negligence of the driver, the trial court did not err in denying the Board of Regents' motion for a directed verdict of liability," Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes wrote for a three-judge panel.
Eco-Clean failed to show that Brown failed to introduce evidence of the intended use of the handle that failed, according to the ruling.
"The driver (in the 2007 wreck) testified subsequently that he discussed with Eco-Clean's manager that the car needed handles to give people standing on the running board 'something more robust to grab onto,'" Barnes wrote.
The Ramblin' Wreck is immortalized in the school fight song, which begins, "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer!"
The school glee club sang the tune live on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1953, but the legendary host made the singers change the word "hell" to "heck."