Supreme Court of Virginia Finds Auto Maker Has No Legal Duty to Make Soft-Top Convertible Capable of Withstanding Rollover Accident

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an interesting opinion in a product liability case involving a plaintiff’s claim against an auto maker that the soft-top convertible she was operating during a rollover accident failed to protect her from injury. The case, Holiday Motor Corporation v. Walters, was ultimately decided in favor of the defendant auto maker because the court determined that there was no legal duty to create a soft-top convertible that was capable of withstanding the force of a rollover accident.

Convertible CarThe Facts of the Case

Walters, the plaintiff, was driving her 1995 Mazda Miata. The car was a soft-top convertible. She was driving it on a two-lane highway behind a pick-up truck when she noticed a large object fall off the back of the truck. She swerved to avoid hitting the object and ended up rolling the vehicle.

When the car came to a stop, it was upside down and partially leaning against a tree. The roof of the convertible had caved in, and as a result Walters sustained serious back and neck injuries. She filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the vehicle. The argument she made was that the auto maker’s failure to manufacture the soft-top so that it would protect the occupants of the vehicle was a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.

The Jury’s Decision and Subsequent Appeal

The jury hearing the case found in favor of Walters. However, the defendants appealed, arguing that they did not have a duty to manufacture the soft-top convertible so that it could sustain the amount of force involved in a rollover collision. The appellate court ended up agreeing with the defendants.

The court cited several reasons for its opinion that there was no legal duty. First, the court noted that there were no federal regulations governing the strength of soft-top convertibles. Second, other manufacturers of similar models did not create soft-tops capable of withstanding a rollover collision. Finally, the court explained that a soft-top convertible is a unique vehicle, and anyone who purchases one likely does so because of the vehicle’s soft-top feature. Thus, a buyer of a soft-top convertible should be on notice that they are not necessarily as safe in a rollover accident. As a result of this case, the plaintiff will not likely be entitled to any compensation for her injuries.

Have You Been the Victim of a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a dangerous or defective product, including a poorly designed vehicle, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from the manufacturer of that product or vehicle. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Virginia law firm of Charles. B. Roberts & Associates have decades of valuable experience handling all types of personal injury cases. Call 703-491-7070 to set up a free consultation with an attorney today. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

See More Blog Posts:

Good Samaritan Laws and How They Can Affect a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 20, 2016.

Battery Claims Based on Lack of Informed Consent May Be Subject to Procedural Requirements of Medical Malpractice Claims, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 6, 2016.