A Florida appeals court has upheld an $11 million jury verdict against Continental Tire North America Inc. The Fourth Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict that had been returned in favor of the Plaintiff Tracey Parker. The Plaintiff spent 107 days in the hospital following a tire blowout in May 2009 that caused her vehicle to roll over several times. The appellate court rejected Continental Tire’s argument that the court deprived it of a fair trial by allowing the Plaintiff to rely on an expert Continental Tire had withdrawn and by excluding evidence that the alleged defect hadn’t occurred before. The tire manufacturers also complained about animations and stills depicting the company’s manufacturing process.
Ms. Parker was driving to her job in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., on Interstate 95 when the right rear tire on her 2006 Chevy Cobalt failed. She had to be airlifted to a trauma center in West Palm Beach, Fla., where she spent more than a month in a coma and had to undergo 17 surgeries. It was alleged that the tire’s failure was caused by a design and manufacturing defect. According to the evidence, the tire was, at the time of the accident, well-maintained and did not have uneven tread wear or repairs, and had three years left on its warranty.
Continental Tire argued that the tire couldn’t have been manufactured with wires sticking out of the rubber, as the Plaintiff had claimed. The company argued further that even though the tire had suffered earlier damage to the rim that caused it to lose air, the Plaintiff drove on the tire anyway. The jury rejected the Plaintiff’s design defect theory, but found that the tire had a manufacturing defect that led to her injuries. Continental Tire was found to have been negligent in manufacturing the tire. The jury awarded $9.9 million to Ms. Parker and $1 million to her husband.
The Plaintiff pointed out in her brief that Continental Tire failed to address the negligence ruling, saying that the company “conspicuously omits” that her tire lacked an inspection stamp that each tire leaving its factory was required to have. It was argued in the Plaintiff’s brief:
Appellate courts do not reverse cases where the losing defendant fails to assert prejudicial error on one of the plaintiffs’ winning theories of liability; i.e., [Continental Tire] agreed that Mrs. Parker’s tire had no ‘inspection stamp,’ which supported the jury’s finding of negligence, and CTA has not challenged any issue related to that finding.
After hearing arguments, the appellate court agreed with the lower court’s decision in its entirety. Ms. Parker and her husband are represented by Julie Littky-Rubin of Clark Fountain La Vista Prather Keen & Littky-Rubin LLP, a firm located in West Palm Beach, Fla. She did a very good job in this case. The appeal was heard in the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District of Florida.
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