Michigan appeals court upholds $8M verdict, damages cap in Goodyear case

By Carrie Salls | Nov 8, 2018

Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens   icle.org

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) – The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld rulings denying Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s request to set aside a jury verdict in a case involving a man who was paralyzed in a car accident allegedly because of a tire defect, as well as an order related to the amount of damages awarded to the victim’s estate.

In its opinion, the three-justice panel of David Sawyer, Cynthia Diane Stephens and Michael Gadola said it disagreed with Goodyear’s argument that the Berrien Circuit Court improperly allowed an expert to testify at trial, that the whole verdict should have been invalidated because of an “unproven design defect theory,” that testimony related to impact should not have been allowed and that the case should be dismissed because of “minimal” errors in a chart and errors in a “bead barcode” presented as evidence.

Also, the appeals court ruled that the trial court was right in ruling that Patel did not satisfy the legal criteria for setting aside the cap on non-economic damages.

According to the Oct. 25 opinion, Harishkumar Patel, for whom plaintiff Hemuben Patel is the representative, was involved in a one-car accident on July 6, 2012.

“Patel was driving his 1998 Nissan Pathfinder when the right rear tire’s tread separated (essentially, the belts of the tire coming apart at high speed), causing his truck to roll over,” the opinion said. “Patel sustained spinal injuries that rendered him quadriplegic.”

Hemuben Patel filed a lawsuit against Goodyear and Discount Tire Co., which sold the tire in question to Patel approximately seven years earlier, claiming the defendants were guilty of “negligent production, gross negligence and breach of implied warranty.” The trial court later granted summary disposition to Discount Tire and dismissed it from the case.

The first jury that heard the plaintiff’s case against Goodyear was deadlocked, resulting in a mistrial, the opinion said. When the case was retried, the second jury ruled in favor of Patel in connection with the negligent production and breach of warranty claims, but rejected the gross negligence count against Goodyear.

Although Patel was initially awarded $16.12 million by the second jury, including $8.75 million for non-economic damages, the appeals court ruling states the trial court subsequently decreased the amount of non-economic damages awarded to the plaintiff to $794,600.

Goodyear had appealed on the argument it was entitled or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial "because the trial court made a series of evidentiary errors that denied Goodyear a fair trial," according to the appeals court.

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