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Defendant Severely Injured in SUV Rollover Accident

On June 9, 1986 a woman was driving a small and compact sports utility vehicle on the highway. She slammed on her brakes to avoid a deer that had walked directly on the path of her small SUV. After she slammed on the brakes, her car rolled over and she suffered severe personal injury. She and her husband sued the car manufacturer who produced and marketed the compact sports utility vehicle. Her complaint asserted negligence, strict products liability and breach of implied warranty of merchantability.

The woman introduced evidence to show that a SUV rollover accidentis not uncommon because its wheel base and track width was narrow. They claim that the small SUV was unstable as it was manufactured by the car company. They also introduced evidence that the car company marketed the small compact SUV as suitable and fashionable for suburban and city driving which was why they bought it.

After the presentation of evidence the trial judge instructed jury that the strict products liability claim and the breach of implied warranty claim should be treated separately. The trial court also instructed the jury that if they found the car as a defective product, then the car manufacturer should be found liable for injury which results from the use of the defective product for the purpose for which it was intended.

A New York Injury Lawyer said the trial court also instructed the jury that the law considers that the car manufacturer who sells a car it has made a warranty that the car is reasonably fit for the ordinary purposes it was intended. If the car was not fit for its intended purpose, the warranty is breached.

A Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer said the jury found that the car was not defective and found that the car manufacturer was not liable under the strict products liability cause of action. But the jury found that the car manufacturer breached the implied warranty of merchantability. The jury awarded the woman $1.2 million in damages to compensate for the personal injury she sustained..

The car manufacturer moved for a new trial on the ground that the jury finding that the car was not defective should have absolved it of liability both under the strict products liability cause of action and also under the implied warranty of merchantability. The trial court denied the motion for new trial. It is this order of the trial court that the car manufacturer now appeals.

The only issue in the Supreme Court was whether or not the trial court erred in denying the motion for new trial when it found that the jury verdict was not inconsistent.

The Supreme Court ruled that liability for the cause of action on strict products liability and implied warranty of merchantability are separate and distinct. The Court cited the purpose for the warranties: they were relied upon as a means for the complainant to recover economically for personal injury sustained by him for the use of defective goods.

The Court ruled that the “defect” for the purpose of attaching liability under implied warranty of merchantability originates from contract and it particularly addresses the purchaser’s disappointed expectations. The defect which attached liability under strict products liability actions originates from law and concerns itself with social policy and the allocation of risk.

In this case, the car manufacturer took the position that the design features such as the narrow track width and short wheel base was necessary to preserve the car’s ability to drive over irregular terrain of off-road travel. This is a proof that forms the defense under strict products liability. Under this distinction, the jury had to determine if the car’s value as an off-road vehicle outweighed the risk of rollover accidents that would occur if the vehicle was used for other driving tasks.

The injured woman’s proof focused on the car manufacturer’s warranty when it sold the car that it was safe and suitable for everyday road travel when it knew that its design made the car susceptible to rollover accidents. In other words, a Manhattan Personal Injury Lawyer explained, the evidence of the plaintiff showed that the car was advertised as safe and suitable for the ordinary purpose of routine street driving even when the car manufacturer knew that it was not.

For this reason, the Court found that the trial court did not err in dismissing the motion for new trial. The Court held that the jury verdict is not inconsistent because it is possible for there to be a breach of implied warranty even though the claim for strict products liability has not been established.

A person who suffered injuries in a rollover accident must be able to plead the proper cause of action suited to the facts. An experienced lawyer can help you determine which cause of action to bring against a car manufacturer. Consult with Stephen Bilkis and Associates to ensure that the cause of action you bring will ensure that you get paid damages for the injuries you or your loved one sustained.

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