U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land on Tuesday denied a request from Volkswagen Group of America Inc. and Honeywell International Inc. for a new trial in a case of sudden unintended acceleration linked to a 2004 VW Passat turbocharger. In September, a jury found the companies liable for a defect that caused Plaintiff Cheryl Bullock’s Passat to speed out of control and crash, leaving her permanently injured. Ms. Bullock and her husband, Kevin Bullock, were represented by Beasley Allen attorneys Kendall C. Dunson and D. Michael Andrews.

Ms. Bullock was traveling with her 5-year-old daughter when her 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS TDI suddenly accelerated out of her control, causing the vehicle to leave the roadway and overturn. The lawsuit alleged Volkswagen Group of America and Honeywell International were aware of a defect in the vehicle’s turbocharger that could lead to sudden acceleration problem.

The jury agreed with the Plaintiff’s case and awarded the Bullocks $8 million in damages. That judgement was later reduced to $4.8 million based on a decision that VW and Honeywell were only 60 percent to blame for the crash.

VW and Honeywell sought a new trial, or judgment in their favor, after claiming the experts who testified at trial on behalf of the Bullocks examined a turbocharger that was older than the one in Ms. Bullock’s car. They said newer turbochargers were not subject to the leak tied to sudden acceleration problem.

However, Judge Land said evidence presented at trial was strong enough to uphold the verdict. He pointed to testimony from an expert mechanic who said there was excessive oil in the Bullocks’ Passat’s intake system, indicating it was subject to the defect. Judge Land also relied on evidence provided by Ms. Bullock’s orthopedic doctor, who testified her injuries were consistent with having her foot on the brake at the time of the crash.

Not only did Judge Land deny the request based on strength of evidence, he also cited the value of what he called “a diverse jury’s collective wisdom” in reaching the verdict, saying “…when the evidence supports the jury verdict, the court can’t step in to provide shelter.”

Sources: Law360, Bloomberg BNA



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