A Pennsylvania state judge has upheld the $55 million jury verdict against Honda Motor Co. for ignoring a seat belt defect that a driver claimed paralyzed him. Judge Shelley Robins-New rejected several of the automaker’s post-trial motions attempting to upset the verdict. The judge said the evidence supported the jury’s verdict in Carlos Martinez’s suit alleging he became a quadriplegic after his 1999 Acura Integra rolled over in an accident, adding that the amount shouldn’t be reduced. Judge Robins-New said:
The verdict for noneconomic damages and loss of consortium was consistent with the facts and testimony presented in court. We did not believe it appropriate for us to disturb the jury’s finding.
Honda challenged the verdict in a number of ways, including questioning the admissibility of certain evidence and testimony and the jury instructions, and alleging that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdict. Honda argued that the court shouldn’t have denied its request for remittitur and claimed that a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion warrants a new trial. However, Judge Robins-New rejected all of the automaker’s arguments. She ruled that the evidence was properly introduced and supported the verdict, that there was no error in the jury’s instructions, and that remittitur is inappropriate. Judge Robins-New said that “large verdicts are not inherently excessive.”
Judge Robins-New also disagreed that the state high court’s opinion in Tincher v. Omega Flex Inc. compels a new trial, saying that she doesn’t believe the opinion mandated changes in the court’s rulings in the current suit. Judge Robins-New said:
Moreover, even if Tincher changed the law of the case concerning defective design, it did not concern the failure to warn. As the jury found an independent basis of liability based upon failure to warn, if this court erred, such error would be harmless.
The verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which was returned in June, included $25 million for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, $14.6 million for future medical expenses, $15 million for his wife’s loss of consortium and $720,000 for lost future earnings. It was proved to the jury’s satisfaction by Martinez’s attorneys. Martinez’ seat belt didn’t keep his head from smacking the top of the car as the car rolled over, causing his paralysis. Honda knew about the defect as early as 1992, but did nothing to fix it and didn’t disclose it to drivers.
Carols Martinez is represented by Stewart J. Eisenberg and Daniel J. Sherry Jr. of Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck PC. They have done a very good job in this case.