The case, Walters v. Holiday Motor Corp., was decided in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia. Plaintiff alleged the vehicle’s manufacturer and distributors were liable for negligence and breach of express and implied warranty under Virginia state law. She sought $25 million in damages.
Although the lawsuit stemmed from a crash, at its heart, it was a product liability claim. The now-35-year-old victim testified that she was traveling on a country road when she swerved to avoid a small, plastic swimming pool that fell off the back of a truck in front of her. At the time, she was driving a Mazda Miata sports car.
Our Asheville crash lawyers understand it was dark and the driver had just seconds to react. The truck never stopped. It’s driver was never located.
In the lawsuit she later filed, she alleged the 1995 model convertible was designed defectively. As the car flipped on its roof, the windshield collapsed. The convertible was closed at the time, and the driver was neither operating the vehicle recklessly or speeding.
When the windshield caved in onto her, it caused the driver serious spinal cord injuries that left her paraplegic for life. She will now always need the assistance of a wheelchair. Further, in addition to her physical injuries, she asserted she sustained severe emotional and mental trauma as well, as she will require care for the remainder of her life.
The two-week trial was reportedly an arduous one, with the jury deliberating for several days.
The jury ultimately awarded her $20 million, and required defendants pay interest on that amount since the date of the 2006 crash. If the case survives all appeals, that could ultimately push the damages to nearly $30 million.
Defendants insist the vehicle was not defective. A spokesman for one of the companies insists that no reasonable person would expect a soft-top convertible vehicle to protect them in the event of a major wreck.
Although failure to warn was not one of the claims made by plaintiff, one wonders if a case could succeed on those grounds based on the spokesman’s statement. If the vehicle could not protect individuals in the event of a rollover, would manufacturers have a duty to warn of that?
Appeals in this case are likely to take several years. In the meantime, we expect a new rush of product liability cases related to vehicle defects in the wake of the recent Takata air bag recall. Millions of vehicles have been recalled as a result of air bags that reportedly malfunction and spew dangerous debris at drivers and passengers in the event the bag is deployed. So far, a handful of deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to this issue.
Our experienced crash and product liability lawyers know how to successfully pursue these cases. If you believe your vehicle was defective in the event of a crash, we can help you determine whether you have a strong case.
Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Roanoke jury awards $20 million in sports car accident, Oct. 23, 2014, By Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times
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Bolding v. Kindel Concrete – Proving Causation is Critical to Case, Nov. 1, 2014, Asheville Car Accident Attorney Blog