Alumnus sues University over motorized tricycle crash in Philips Hall

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Alumnus Steven Brunetto has undergone medical treatment and has needed leg hardware implants as a result of the crash, according to the lawsuit.

An alumnus is suing the University and an engineering professor for more than $6 million for negligence following a motorized tricycle crash in 2019.

In a 22-page page complaint filed in the D.C. Superior Court Monday, Steven Brunetto alleges Eshan Naranji, an adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was negligent when he organized a motorized tricycle race in the parking garage of Phillips Hall for an assignment in his engineering systems design class. The lawsuit states Brunetto crashed into a concrete wall during the race, seriously injuring his leg because of the assignment which accounted for 50 percent of his grade.

“In the life-changing finale of the competition, Steven’s fellow class members and his professor watched as he began the lap during the final race,” the lawsuit states. “The lap appeared to start off well. But, it quickly turned tragic.”

The lawsuit states after the class broke into teams to build their own motorized “drift trike,” Brunetto’s vehicle failed to turn during the race, causing him to slam into a concrete wall and break his left leg and ankle. The lawsuit states the University’s and Naranji’s were negligent because of their requirement for students to participate in an “inherently dangerous” project and their failure to provide proper safety equipment for the race.

“Steven’s legs took the brunt of the force, and the force from the impact caused a pipe to rupture and spill liquid all over Steven’s trike and his person,” the complaint reads. “Steven was in utter shock, his left leg and ankle were shattered and he was fearful that the pipe was leaking flammable liquids.”

Brunetto, Naranji and University spokesperson Crystal Nosal did not immediately return a request for comment.

The lawsuit states Naranji did not require safety equipment, like pads, fire suits or helmets, for the drift trike races. GW Police Department officers responded to the scene of the crash following a call to the parking garage, but they allowed the race to continue as a University-sponsored project, according to the lawsuit.

Brunetto, who graduated in 2020, has undergone “extensive” medical treatment with scarring and hardware implants in his leg as a result of the crash, the complaint states.

The lawsuit states Brunetto still suffers from nerve issues and a reduced range of motion because of his injuries. He also failed to complete his internship while seeking medical treatment because of the crash, losing wages in the process.

“Naranji’s and GWU’s decision to hold the drift trike Race Day, for credit, in an enclosed concrete parking garage on a busy weekday afternoon without any safety measures either on the vehicles or on the course was unsafe and reckless,” the complaint reads.

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