A man who was riding on the front of a Kubota skid steer and was paralyzed after his shoulder was caught by a grapple attachment has been awarded over $11 million by a Kansas jury.
Kolton Kincaid sued Kubota Tractor Corp. after he was injured in 2013, claiming there was no warning sticker on the SVL-95 skid steer concerning the danger. Kincaid was 17 at the time and working part-time for a company that provided services for farms.
The skid steer was new and being operated by one of Kincaid’s high school friends. Kincaid and another teenage friend were riding on the outside of the skid steer. Kincaid was sitting on the center step on the front of the skid steer as they rode across a large, muddy field to get to a worksite, according to court records.
As the skid steer approached a ravine with standing water, the operator raised the loader arms and grapple attachment. Kincaid’s shoulder was caught between the attachment and the cab’s roof overhang. His spine was compressed at the pinch point, causing severe spinal cord injury, and he became a paraplegic, records said.
The skid steer and its operator’s manual had warnings to “never carry riders” and “do not allow passengers to ride on any part of the machine at any time.” But a human factors expert testified on behalf of Kincaid there was no warning against riding where Kincaid sat nor one for a risk of being crushed in the way he was. She added that young people who have not received training might believe riding on a skid steer was safe and were unaware of the dangers.
Kubota argued that the existing warnings on the skid steer and the operator’s manual were sufficient, and no further warning was required by state law.
A district court had previously sided with Kubota, saying Kincaid was not injured because he rode on the skid steer but because the operator raised the grapple attachment while Kincaid was on it.
But the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned the district court’s decision in 2020 and sent it back to the court for further proceedings. It cited a previous Kansas Supreme Court case: “In the vast majority of cases, the question of negligence is a factual determination for the jury, not a legal question for the court.”
On November 14, 2023, a jury sided with Kincaid that there should have been specific warnings about the crushing danger and ordered Kubota to pay $11,138,422.40 for Kincaid’s past and future medical expenses, pain, suffering and mental anguish.
Kincaid was represented by Michael Wyatt and Jesse Tanksley with Mann Wyatt Tanksley Injury Attorneys. The lawyers said the verdict will force Kubota to look at its safety practices and develop warnings to prevent future injuries. The goal, they said, was to publicly hold Kubota responsible and ensure Kincaid was able to pay for medical treatment and his interest in paraplegia advocacy and adaptive sports.
Kubota declined to comment for this article, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.