I attended the Automotive SLG Breakout yesterday during the Product Liability Seminar in Las Vegas. The session was very informative and provided great information.

Jeffery A. Curran and Jeya Padmanaban spoke about the use of statistical evidence during trial. This evidence can be a great weapon to use against an adversary, but one must also watch out for the use of such evidence against your client. The key issues to pay attention to are the admissibility of the statistical evidence, foundational requirements and how to attach plaintiff’s raw data. It is an up hill battle to use statistical evidenced in court, but is has been found that judges are more open to such evidence if you can talk about the relationship between the vehicle design and the accident performance. Overall, statistical evidence must be used properly and must be put into perspective for the jury so they understand the information being presented to them.

Next Kevin C. Schiferl spoke about defending product claims when the supply chain is missing a link. In such situations, there are two frames of mind in which to look at these cases 1) distribution of liability and 2) litigation hurdles. Both of these frames of mind have legal and practical implications. Issues which arise include the assembler’s liability, component part supplier liability and what happens when the OEM or component part supplier are missing but their exists a seller/dealer of the product. Overall, you should be careful if you face such a situation; establish who the pertinent players are, understand the legal ramifications of missing players and address the evidentiary proof issues which will be confronted early to be prepared moving forward.

Finally, Stephen J. Fenton and Louann Van Der Wiele spoke about case study, Hanoka v. Chrysler, which was tried in Tokyo in the summer of 2008. The case dealt with a 2002 multi-vehicle accident involving a 1995 Jeep Cherokee. The driver of the vehicle crossed into the opposite lane of travel and impacted a Nissan dump truck. The collision killed the wife and husband in the vehicle and caused orthopedic injuries to the couple’s two year old son. 6 days after the accident, the subject vehicle was scrapped by the husband’s parents, who later brought suit against Chrysler based upon a steering column recall in the subject vehicle which they received three weeks after the accident. Chrysler hired Mr. Fenton to reconstruct the accident to disprove plaintiff’s allegations. By looking at the damage to the vehicle’s from the scene photographs and reviewing the accident report, Mr. Fenton reconstructed the accident and was able to show that the plaintiffs’ expert’s reconstruction did not match up with the evidence in the case, including the reconstruction performed by the local authorities. On December 24, 2008 a judgment was rendered in favor of Chrysler and the matter is currently on appeal.

Overall it was a great session. I am looking forward to next year already.

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Categories: Product Liability | Seminar

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