Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an interesting written opinion in a product liability case, discussing when a plaintiff is able to introduce evidence of similar defects in the defendant’s product that had occurred in the past.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were stopped at a highway off-ramp when they were rear-ended by a 1996 Toyota that was exiting the highway, traveling at 75 miles per hour. Two of the people in the car were instantly killed, and three other passengers were seriously injured, with one suffering from quadriplegia.
Initially, the other driver was charged with vehicular homicide; however, Toyota later announced a recall of the braking systems of many 1996 Toyotas, including the other driver’s vehicle. He was later exonerated. After the recall and subsequent exoneration, the plaintiffs in the stopped vehicle filed a product liability lawsuit against Toyota.
During the trial, in an attempt to persuade the jury that Toyota had knowledge of the braking system failures, the plaintiffs presented an expert witness who testified about several other instances in which the brakes failed on a 1996 Toyota, resulting in serious injuries. Toyota objected to the expert’s testimony, arguing that it was not relevant to this case. However, the trial court allowed the evidence, and a jury returned a $14 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. Toyota appealed.
The Case Is Affirmed on Appeal
The court began its discussion by explaining that “other similar incident” (OSI) evidence is treated carefully by courts because it can have the potential to create confusion and may result in undue prejudice. However, the court noted that in some situations, OSI evidence is proper because it can shed some light on whether the defendant manufacturer was aware of the alleged defect.
Here, the court held that the plaintiff’s OSI evidence was properly admitted by the trial court. The court explained that the other incidents all involved a 1996 Toyota with over 100,000 miles, just like the Toyota involved in this case. Additionally, the other situations discussed by the expert were strikingly similar in that the vehicle began unexpectedly accelerating as soon as the driver removed his foot from the gas pedal. Since the OSI evidence was so factually similar to the alleged defect at issue in this case, the court allowed the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiffs.
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. There are many legal theories upon which a successful case can be based, including a product liability theory. The skilled Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of car accident cases, including single-vehicle accidents and product liability cases. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
NTSB Issues Report Regarding Last Year’s Fatal Auto-Pilot Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published June 23, 2017.
Court Refuses to Consider Driver’s Negligence When Hearing “Crashworthiness” Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published June 2, 2017.