Plaintiff’s Jury Verdict Affirmed in Recent Product Liability Case Against Auto Manufacturer

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion that may be of interest to anyone injured in a Maryland car accident due to a dangerous or defective component in a vehicle. In the case, the court affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a man who was permanently paralyzed after being involved in a car accident while riding as a passenger in a van manufactured by the defendant. However, since the manner in which the verdict was rendered may suggest that the jury was confused, a new trial was awarded to determine the appropriate amount of damages the plaintiff is owed.

Westphalia VanThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving a van manufactured by the defendant when he was involved in a low-speed collision with the vehicle in front of him. The van rolled onto its side after the collision. Despite the fact that he was wearing his seatbelt at the time, the plaintiff slammed his head against the van’s roof, resulting in his spinal cord being severed. The plaintiff was paralyzed from the neck down after the accident. No one else in the van suffered any injuries.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the van’s manufacturer, alleging several theories of liability. However, after a trial was conducted, the jury found the manufacturer liable only for failing to conduct adequate testing on the seatbelt mechanism. The jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million in past damages and nothing for future damages.

The van’s manufacturer filed a post-trial motion with the trial court, asking the court to override the jury’s verdict. The manufacturer argued that the jury’s verdict was contradictory and did not make sense, given the evidence presented at trial. The court agreed, noting that “the jury’s finding of no defect rendered the other finding of negligent failure to adequately test a legally insufficient basis for liability.” The trial court granted the manufacturer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. However, the court hedged its bet by also conditionally granting the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on the issue of damages alone, finding that if the court’s ruling in favor of the manufacturer was reversed on appeal, the $1 million award amount was legally inadequate.

On appeal, the court determined that the plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence for the jury to render the verdict that it did. The court explained that the plaintiffs presented considerable expert testimony showing that, had the manufacturer conducted testing on the vehicle’s seatbelt mechanism, it was likely that a safer design would have been used after the results of the test were interpreted. Thus, the lower court’s ruling that the verdict was inconsistent was reversed. The court also affirmed the lower court’s decision to conduct a new trial on damages, finding that the evidence presented by the plaintiff seemed to indicate that the $1 million figure was insufficient.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience assisting the victims of Maryland car accidents in pursuing compensation for their injuries. We are experienced in all types of car accidents, including product liability cases against vehicle manufacturers. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Recent Case Finds Hotel Was Not Liable for Poolside Accident Caused by Drunk Driver, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 2, 2017.

Insurance Company Permitted to Question Accident Victims Under Oath Prior to Approval of Claim, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 4, 2017.

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