Man who lost eye when bungee cord snapped wins $1.5 million in damages

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - A man who lost his right eye when a bungee cord he used to secure a piece of tarp snapped into him has won $1.5 million in damages from a company now known as Original Bungee Co. in Oxnard, Calif.

Jason Cole, 29, of Brick Township, sued Bungee International Manufacturing Corp. after the April 1997 incident, alleging the elastic stretch cord was unsafe. He suffered permanent vision loss in his right eye.

Cole was trying to secure tarp over a pile of debris on an open trailer and hooked one end of the bungee cord to an eyelet on the tarp, according to his lawyer, James Hely. When he tried to hook the other end to the trailer, the end secured to the eyelet slipped out, snapping Cole in the eye, he said.

During the trial in Superior Court in Ocean County, the jury heard expert testimony that the bungee cord was defective because it could not withstand that amount of force, Hely said. Three other lawsuits against the company made similar claims and a jury in Charlottesville, Va., awarded $350,000 to a man in 1994 who suffered a similar injury, he said.

''This has far more impact than just this person,'' Hely said Tuesday. ''This happens way too many times. It's got to stop.''

Robert Kretzer, a Jersey City attorney who represented Bungee International, did not return a telephone message left with a secretary at his law office. The company changed ownership last spring and is now known as the Original Bungee Co. based in Oxnard, Calif.

Alan Lefko, controller of the new company, declined comment Tuesday on the verdict, but said the bungee cords are safe. The cords are used in a variety of ways, such as to secure items to car rooftops, tighten back packs and to secure luggage.

''They have a certain tolerance they will stretch,'' Lefko said. ''It's when used ... beyond their limits that these things happen.''

Lefko also said the cord comes with a warning urging users to wear protective goggles when using the cord.

The jury on Friday, however, ruled in favor of Cole and under a partial settlement reached before the verdict, Cole will receive $1.5 million. The jury actually awarded Cole and his wife $2 million but the settlement capped the award at $1.5 million, Hely said.

Under the partial settlement, there will be no appeals or post-trial motions filed in the case, according to Hely. Cole should receive payment for the damages in about a month, he said.

Cole, a youth worker at a child development center and a part-time landscaper, has kept his job and made no claim of lost wages in the case, Hely said. Instead, he sought damages for his disability, impairment, pain and suffering, he said.


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