Court Affirms Product Liability Case in Favor of Plaintiff, Despite Potentially Conflicting Jury Verdict

When a Virginia personal injury trial has concluded, and after the jury’s verdict has been rendered, the parties have an opportunity to file post-trial motions seeking relief for perceived errors that occurred during the trial. Most often, these post-trial motions seek to preserve certain rights for appeal or seek judgment as a matter of law on claims that were not established by the evidence. A recent product liability case illustrates the complex issues that may arise when arguing post-trial motions.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff owned a van manufactured by the defendant. One day, as the plaintiff was driving his sons and their fellow Boy Scouts home from a camping trip, the van rolled, and the plaintiff was paralyzed as a result. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the van’s manufacturer, claiming that the van’s seatbelt mechanism was defective and that the manufacturer was negligent for failing to conduct safety testing on the mechanism.

The case proceeded to trial, where the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on only the claim regarding the manufacturer’s failure to conduct safety testing. However, despite the very serious nature of the plaintiff’s injuries, the jury awarded him only $1 million for past damages. No award was provided for future damages, despite evidence that the plaintiff will suffer from permanent paralysis for the rest of his life.

Both parties submitted post-trial motions to the court. The plaintiff’s motion requested a new trial on the issue of damages alone. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the evidence showed that the injuries he sustained in the accident will result in significantly more than $1 million in damages.

The defendant’s post-trial motion sought judgment as a matter of law on all of the plaintiff’s claims. The manufacturer claimed that the jury’s finding that there was no defect in the seatbelt mechanism precluded it from finding that the manufacturer was negligent for failing to conduct safety testing.

Interestingly, the court granted the manufacturer’s motion and also conditionally granted the plaintiff’s motion. The court explained that “[t]he jury’s finding of no defect rendered the other finding of negligent failure to adequately test a legally insufficient basis for liability.” However, the court also noted that the plaintiff suffered “a permanent injury that would require medical care of some sort for the rest of his life” and that the $1 million award amount was insufficient. Thus, if an appellate court later determined that the court’s granting of the manufacturer’s motion was in error, the plaintiff would be entitled to a new trial on damages. However, if the plaintiff did not appeal or lost his appeal, no new trial on damages would be necessary.

As it turns out, the appellate court resolved both issues in favor of the plaintiff, and he will be able to seek additional compensation through a new trial on the issue of damages.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Car accidents can be results of many causes, including driver error or defective automotive components. The skilled Virginia personal injury attorneys at the law offices of The Schupak Law Firm have extensive experience helping injured Virginians seek compensation for their injuries. We are prepared to work hard on your behalf through pre-trial investigations, settlement negotiations, trial, and even post-trial motions and appeals if necessary. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Upholds Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Verdict over Defendant’s Sufficiency Challenge, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 6, 2017.

NFL Brain Injury Update: CTE More Common than Originally Thoughts, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, August 8, 2017.

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