Case Spotlight: December 2016
Case Background: Husband, wife and two children were involved in a collision while changing a blow out caused by a defective tire on their newly purchased vehicle. Plaintiffs were struck by a second vehicle that swerved to miss tire debris, losing control. Various injuries suffered by all members of the family; majority of injuries endured by the wife.
Challenges: The case involved multiple defendants – some with mutual indemnification – that included the driver of the second vehicle, that vehicle’s insured, the dealership that sold the car, the auction house where the dealer purchased the car, and the tire manufacturer. The dealership cross-claimed against the auto auction for indemnity as well as implicated a third-party for failing to properly inspect the car. While defendants blamed one another and prolonged the case, the wife remained in great need of further medical care.
Solutions: First, after the tire manufacturer successfully proved the tire was not defective when it was originally sold, and the court dismissed the claim against it, Plaintiff’s counsel retained the manufacturer’s tire expert. The expert was prepared to testify that the damage to the tire would have been easily identified had a reasonable inspection occurred. Next, the auction house produced a vehicle condition report, attempting to exonerate itself, disclosing multiple issues with the vehicle’s tires. This was in the possession of the dealership prior to the final sale but not disclosed to the Plaintiff until after the sale. Plaintiff’s counsel combined this evidence with the dealership owner’s testimony to amend their complaint to include punitive damages for fraud and concealment. These strategic moves by Plaintiff’s counsel not only weighted the case in the Plaintiff’s favor but also significantly increased the Defendants’ exposure.
Outcome: A “good faith” settlement was agreed upon with Farmers Insurance for the colliding vehicle for policy limits of $50,000. The case against the dealership was first mediated with a retired judge but did not settle. The case eventually settled prior to trial for $1,640,000, with $1.63 million coming from the dealership and $10,000 from the auction house. Of this, the wife was awarded $1.61 million due to her extensive injuries.
Credits: Timothy D. McMahon and Mark Sigala of Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, LLP