PRODUCT LIABILITY VERDICT UPHELD – DEFECTIVE CAR ROOF CAUSED SEVERE INJURIES TO VICTIM
This post summarizes a recent ruling in a New Jersey product liability case. The case involved a Nissan Altima. A product liability jury found that Nissan failed to design a safe vehicle. The jurors awarded the accident victim $4,200,446 in compensation.
Here are the facts. Larry Clanton was driving his Altima on the Garden State Parkway. A 73-pound tire came loose from a Ford truck traveling in the opposite direction. The wheel struck the hood of Clanton’s car.
The parties disputed what happened next. Clanton’s expert witnesses asserted that the wheel struck the roof header, a structural part of the car’s roof, above the windshield. The header separated from the side roof rail, above the side window. The roof header and roof then collapsed into the passenger compartment. They struck Clanton in the head and caused serious head and spinal injuries.
Nissan contended the wheel struck Clanton through the windshield before it hit the header.
The product liability jury also heard evidence of the impact of Clanton’s injuries on his quality of life. Before the collision, he was employed by the U.S. Postal Service. He also worked for DHL. Clanton was unable to return to work. He was forced to take a disability pension.
The jury found that Nissan failed to design a vehicle that was safe. It also found that the design defect was the cause of Clanton’s injuries.
Nissan appealed. It disputed the jury award. Nissan further contended that Clanton’s anticipated disability pension payments (about $166,000) should have been deducted from the jury award.
The appeals court upheld the jury award to Clanton. But the appellate panel did find that Clanton’s disability payments should have been deducted.
I think that the product liability jury and the judges made the right call.
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