August 29, 2018
A state appellate panel in Georgia has voided a settlement agreement between Nationwide Insurance and a car-accident victim, finding that an employee for the insurance company improperly altered the terms of the final agreement without the other party’s acquiescence or knowledge. The unanimous ruling, which reverses a decision by the trial court, essentially reopens the claims of a plaintiff cyclist who was struck by a car driven by the insured motorist, paving the way for new settlement negotiations or a trial.
The case began when lower-court plaintiff cyclist Joseph Duenas sued defendant motorist Wade Cook, alleging that Cook acted negligently when Cook’s car struck Duenas, who was on his bicycle at the time. However, the trial-court judge dismissed Duenas’s claims on the basis of a settlement agreement Duenas and his attorneys allegedly had entered into with Cook’s insurer, Nationwide.
On appeal, the panel unanimously found that the trial-court judge had erred in accepting the enforceability of the settlement agreement, a determination that was made without holding even a single hearing on the issue, according to the appellate decision, which concluded that the settlement offer to which Duenas had agreed differed significantly in scope from the settlement agreement that Nationwide sent to Duenas for signing.
“The settlement offer plainly stated that Duenas was only offering to settle his personal injury/bodily injury claims,” the Georgia state appellate panel wrote, according to Law360. “However, in response, Nationwide sent the limited release, which purported to release Cook ‘from any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature.’”
An attorney representing Duenas told Law360 he agreed with the panel’s decision.
“We’re certainly pleased with the ruling. The Court of Appeals got the law correct,” Ben Broadhead commented, according to the legal publication. "This was a basic contract law question, there must be offer and acceptance; here, there was no acceptance.”
The case highlights the importance of having a good lawyer on your side when it comes to holding opposing motorists and even their insurance companies to account. If you or a loved one ever is injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle, contact the experienced team of attorneys at AdamsFietz.com for a free legal consultation with a licensed attorney!
August 29, 2018
In the appeal of a case previously reported on by TheLawFirm.com, the California Supreme Court ruled on August 27, 2018 that a lower court had acted properly in allowing Toyota to present evidence of other automakers’ practices in the 2012 product-liability lawsuit brought by a man who was left quadriplegic following a roll-over accident in his Toyota vehicle.
According to a concurring opinion authored by two of the justices, the decision reverses decades of California legal precedent that has considered an industry-wide failure to include a certain feature as not relevant to a determination of whether or not a particular product contains a design defect.
Plaintiff William Jae Kim sued Toyota after the accident, alleging that his Toyota Tacoma pickup truck was defectively designed for not including the same electronic stability controls as other Toyota vehicles. Had his Toyota Tacoma contained such a feature, Kim argued, it would not have rolled over, and he would not have suffered his life-altering injuries.
At trial, the court allowed Toyota to present evidence of the practices of other automobile manufacturers, which typically do not include electronic stability controls as a standard feature in their pickup-truck models. Attorneys for Kim, the plaintiff, urged the court not to allow such evidence, saying it was irrelevant to the jury’s design-defect analysis under California law.
California design-defect law, which is based on the precedent-setting 1978 state supreme court decision Baker v. Lull, determines whether or not a design defect exists by calling on the fact finder, usually a jury, to weigh whether a product’s benefits outweigh its risks.
While attorneys for Kim argued that the practices of other automakers were irrelevant for the purposes of the so-called Baker Test, the trial-court judge allowed the evidence, and the jury ultimately sided with Toyota, finding the company not liable on Kim’s claims of strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. In 2014, Kim appealed, but an appellate panel affirmed the lower-court ruling.
With the California supreme court affirming the prior decisions, Kim has effectively exhausted his legal remedies in a case that, according to the concurring opinion, probably has added more confusion than clarification regarding the admissibility of evidence of industrywide practices in California design-defect cases.
“What ‘everyone else is doing’ is not relevant to whether a product can be designed better, and it invites jurors to inadvertently conflate the condition of the product with the behavior of the manufacturer,” California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu and California Court of Appeal Justice William Dato, sitting with the supreme court by designation, wrote in their concurring opinion to Monday’s decision. “The majority opinion appears to endorse admission of a defendant's industry custom-and-practice evidence as a proxy for the foundational risks and benefits that a manufacturer should be evaluating in making product design decisions.”
The legal ramifications of the decision are likely to be sorted out for years, if not decades, to come.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, contact the experienced team of attorneys at AdamsFietz.com right away for a free legal consultation!
April 22, 2018
In 2012, On Monday, April 17, a state court jury in California sided with the victim of an automobile accident that left him quadriplegic, awarding the plaintiff $41.6 million, largely for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages. The suit stemmed from an accident that occurred when defendant Samantha Schilling ran a stop sign, striking the vehicle occupied by plaintiff Anthony Taylor.
Born with development disabilities, Taylor had shown much strength and perseverance in managing to gain employment and live independently prior to the accident, his attorneys said, adding that everything changed tragically for the worse when, in December 2015, Taylor—having just completed some last-minute Christmas shopping—was “T-boned” by the vehicle driven by Schilling.
Among the injuries suffered, Taylor was left quadriplegic (he since has regained use of his upper extremities) and disfigured. The jury’s verdict consists of $15.6 million in economic damages ($15 million of which is earmarked for future medical expenses) and $26 million in past and future noneconomic damages, including disfigurement and physical impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering.
Among the challenges facing the plaintiff’s attorneys in this case was the difficulty of portraying to jurors the significance of noneconomic damages.
“The jury has to understand exactly what the plaintiff has gone through and is going to go through, and then they have to put a value on that, which is always the toughest part of a case like this,” Alexander R. Wheeler, an attorney for Taylor, told Law360. “But as you can tell from the noneconomic damages, we did a very good job of letting the jury understand the human losses.”
The case also required the plaintiff’s attorneys to demonstrate the extent of future medical costs facing the victim, who, being only 27 years old, potentially will require decades of dedicated medical care by trained professionals.
“We were able to successfully present the level of care he would require, trained medical care,” said plaintiff’s attorney Wheeler of the $15 million in future medical expenses.
The case highlights the importance of quality legal representation in getting victims the compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one is ever injured in an automobile accident, call the experienced team of attorneys at TheLawFirm.com right away for a free legal consultation. Keep our contact information in your phone, because you never know when you’ll need a good lawyer on your side. Get Help Now!
March 2, 2018
In 2012, Missouri resident Michael Bavlsik was returning from home to St. Louis following a trip to Minnesota, his GMC Savana filled with eight other passengers, including two of his sons. After his passenger van struck a boat being towed by another vehicle, the GMC Savana flipped, and, although he was wearing his seatbelt at the time, Bavlsik struck his head against the collapsed ceiling, suffering a cervical-spinal cord injury that left the father of eight quadriplegic.
Bavlsik and his wife, Kathleen Skelly, brought suit against General Motors (GM) in March 2013, alleging that the seat-belt system lacked three important safety components and that the lack of these components and the failure to conduct adequate testing rendered the design negligent. They further sued GM for a failure to warn. While a jury subsequently found that the GMC Savana van did not contain any design defects that were responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, the jury did find negligence on GM’s part for failure to test and awarded Bavlsik $1 million in damages.
Agreeing with GM, the trial court tossed the jury verdict, finding it illogical for the jury to have found no design defect but a failure to adequately test for a defect that did not exist. The trial court then agreed to plaintiffs’ request for a new trial based solely on the damages issue, but GM appealed to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the plaintiffs and the lower court, remanding the case for a new trial solely on the issue of damages.
Now, GM has asked the United States Supreme Court to step in to resolve what GM describes as a great deal of disagreement among lower courts on how such matters are to be decided. The existing test applied by courts—often referred to as the “Gasoline Products exemption” after the precedent-setting decision that first applied it—has been applied differently by different courts across the country, GM contends.
If you or a loved one suffered injury as a result of a motor-vehicle accident, the expert attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are standing by now for a free consultation. The law places strict time limits on the ability to bring a claim, so sign up today for a free consultation! Get Help Now!
Sonoma County Attorney Jeremy Fietz has recovered over $10,000,000.00 for his motor vehicle accident clients