Cota v. Harley Davidson, 684 P.2d 888 (Ariz. App. 1984)

On March 21, 1980, Jose Cota was riding his Harley Davidson on State Route 77 when he collided with a pickup truck driven by Virginia M. Saliz. Due to the collision, one of the gas tanks on the motorcycle ruptured, spilling gas and igniting a fire that severely burned Cota, who lost both ears, most of his fingers, and most of his right leg.

Jose Cota and his wife Dorothy Cota filed a lawsuit against Harley Davidson alleging the motorcycle had a design defect under the theory of strict product liability. The jury returned a verdict for Jose Cota in the amount of $3.5 million, and $175,000 to Dorothy Cota for loss of consortium. The defendants appealed the decision on the issues of jury misconduct, denied bifurcation of liability and damages, precluding the defenses of assumption of risk, limiting admission of the facts surrounding the crash, and denying a mistrial for improper argument to the jury.

On review the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, upholding the verdict for the Cotas.

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