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Auto Product Liability: Servicemen v. Foreign Automaker – $4,850,000 Settlement During Expert Discovery

In this confidential action, Michael A. Kelly, Andrew McDevitt and Valerie Rose represented two passengers of a sedan that crashed into a tree in central California, suffering enhanced injuries when the car’s rear seat passenger restrain system failed resulting in orthopedic and residual brain injuries. The case settled for $4.85 million during expert discovery following two unsuccessful mediations. The defendant driver had only minimal coverage, and our team sued the vehicle manufacturer and the seatbelt supplier. On the evening of the collision, it was raining and roadway warning signs suggested a speed of 45 mph for the curve where the driver lost control. Plaintiffs each asked the driver to slow down through the curve. The driver, a fellow armed services member, maintained a speed of 65-70 mph until his vehicle lost traction and slammed into a tree head-on. During the impact, the rear passenger side seatbelt broke.

One plaintiff pitched forward, causing the top of his head to strike the back of our front seat client’s skull. The head-to-head impact fractured the front passenger’s skull. The rear occupant sustained multiple leg fractures, a broken clavicle and a burst fracture in his spine. The vehicle manufacturer and seatbelt supplier argued that the driver’s irresponsible conduct was solely to blame for plaintiffs’ injuries. In light of the high-speed impact, defendants argued that plaintiffs would have suffered similar injuries regardless of how the restraint system performed. Defendants vigorously challenged both liability and damages, particularly challenging the claim of residual brain injury for the front seat passenger, and deposing more than 10 treating doctors to establish that no brain injury existed.

 

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