A Maryland jury returned a verdict of $18.9 million last month against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The case involved a Wal-Mart employee putting a new tire on an eroded rim, causing a vehicle roll-over, which led to the death of a woman and her two children. The three victims were part of a group of eight persons who were returning from a trip to California in a minivan when the left rear tire on the vehicle went flat in Iowa. After a new tire was mounted by Wal-Mart on the rim, the family drove about eight hours before the rim failed in Indiana, killing the mother and her two children. The personal representative of the three estates, in addition to three other people who were injured in the crash, sued Wal-Mart and the car’s driver alleging negligence. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the driver not to be responsible for the deaths.

The group of eight had traveled to California to visit relatives and they were returning on November 7, 2009, when the tire went flat. A good Samaritan stopped and agreed to take the driver and the car’s rim to the Wal-Mart store in Creston, Iowa, where mechanics installed a new tire on the eroded rim. It’s well known in the industry that new tires are never put on a rusted rim. While training materials and industry standards make that very clear, it was done by Wal-Mart in this case. The group was traveling east on an interstate highway in Indiana when the driver swerved to avoid debris in the road. The rim failed and the tire deflated, causing the driver to lose control of the minivan, which rolled over multiple times. Three of the passengers were killed.

One of the passengers lost his right leg below the knee and suffered a brain injury in the crash. Another suffered severe injuries to her right hand. The other survivors suffered less serious injuries. The suit was filed in Prince George’s County Circuit Court on November 4, 2011. The minivan had been scrapped before the victims hired a lawyer in the case, which made the case more difficult. In the absence of the vehicle and the rim and tire, photos taken by police and family members after the accident were used at trial. An expert also was able to analyze a GPS from the van that provided second-by-second information on the car’s location, angle and speed.

Wal-Mart contended that because the minivan and the tire and the rim were not available, the case should not go forward. Iowa substantive law was applied to the wrongful-death claims and Indiana substantive law applied to the personal injury claims. It was contended that the amounts of non-economic damages awarded should remain intact because neither of those two states cap damages. The jury had awarded the Plaintiffs about $17 million in non-economic damages. Matthew P. Maloney, a lawyer from Kensington, Md., represented the Plaintiffs. He did a very good job for his clients in the case.

Source: Lawyers USA Online

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