Case Study #9:


A $30-million rollover claim defeated at trial

 

Client:  A major domestic automobile manufacturer

 

Type of Case:  Vehicle rollover

 

Background:  Plaintiffs’ vehicle rolled over 3½ times after allegedly attempting an evasive maneuver at highway speed on a major New Jersey thoroughfare. The driver and one of the rear passengers were killed during the accident. A surviving passenger sustained serious orthopedic injuries and an alleged traumatic brain injury. 

 

Suit Filed:  The lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs claimed that the vehicle type was inherently unstable due to a narrow track width and high center of gravity.

 

Client’s Concern:  The case involved multi-million-dollar exposure for Aaronson Rappaport’s client. Furthermore, the death of two passengers and serious injuries to the surviving plaintiff were certain to evoke sympathy at trial. This was compounded by the case’s being brought in Bronx County, a notorious plaintiff’s jurisdiction.

 

Action Strategy:  The trial team attacked the case on two fronts:

 

1) Product: The defense proved that the vehicle type was not inherently unstable or prone to rollover as claimed by the plaintiffs. This was done by: (a) attacking the qualifications, credibility and opinions of the plaintiffs’ primary engineering expert; (b) demonstrating that the vehicle type underwent vigorous testing during the design phase; and (c) using videotape evidence that showed the vehicle type’s resistance to rollover in extreme conditions.

 

2) Medical: The firm demonstrated that the claim of traumatic brain injury had no merit. In support of this, Aaronson Rappaport produced an expert neurologist to testify that the surviving plaintiff sustained a minor concussion that did not result in any permanent injury. The firm also demonstrated that the monetary damages claimed by the plaintiffs were outrageous. Aaronson Rappaport was successful in obtaining a dismissal of the punitive damages claim prior to verdict.


Result:  The jury returned a defense verdict in just 3½ hours, finding that the vehicle type was not defective. In so doing, they rejected the plaintiffs’ request for over $30 million.