Bowman and Brooke LLP: Unanimous Defense Verdict for Hyundai
RENO, Nev., Jan. 24, 2013
RENO, Nev., Jan. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --On January 22, 2013, an eight-person
Washoe County jury returned a unanimous defense verdict after an 11-day
product liability motor vehicle crashworthiness trial. Melissa D. Stevens,
Plaintiff v. Hyundai Motor Company, a foreign corporation; Hyundai Motor
America, a foreign corporation; Lithia Salmir, Inc., dba Lithia Hyundai of
Reno, a Nevada corporation, Second Judicial District Court of the State of
Nevada, in and for the County of Washoe, Case No. CV08-00346, Judge Scott
The trial involved an April 5, 2006 crash on I-80 westbound between Wells and
Elko, Nevada. Plaintiff, Melissa Stevens, then age 32, was the driver and
only occupant of her 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe sport utility vehicle. Upon
encountering rain, snow, hail and slush, plaintiff lost control of her vehicle
and left the highway at a speed of approximately 65 to 70 mph. The vehicle's
tires furrowed in the decomposed asphalt center median for about 70 feet to a
point where the vehicle tripped and began to roll at nearly 55 mph.
Plaintiff's Santa Fe rolled four times passenger side leading across the 5
foot deep median, landed on its wheels and then rolled a half revolution back
toward the driver's side, coming to rest on its roof.
Plaintiff, who was restrained by the vehicle's three-point driver seat belt,
sustained a traumatic brain injury, a C2 odontoid fracture, fractures of her
T1, T2 and T3 vertebrae, fractures of her right second and third ribs, pelvic
fractures and a left wrist fracture. Plaintiff claimed over $3.0 million in
special and non-economic damages, as well as an unspecified amount of punitive
Plaintiff claimed that her injuries were enhanced by alleged defects in the
Santa Fe's roof strength and seat belt. She also alleged that the vehicle
should have been equipped with rollover activated seat belt pretensioners and
side window curtain airbags. Hyundai responded with evidence that the Santa
Fe was safe and defect free, fully complied with federal motor vehicle and
industry standards and provided state-of-the-art crash protection for 2001
model year vehicles.
Following the verdict, Hyundai's lead counsel, Paul Cereghini, commented:
Because plaintiff pursued only an enhanced injury crashworthiness claim, under
Nevada law we could not introduce evidence of the cause of this crash or the
plaintiff's comparative fault. Nevertheless, we were able to prove that Ms.
Stevens survived a very severe crash because of the exceptionally high level
of protection she received from the vehicle. We were also able to show that
technologies such as rollover sensitive pretensioners and side curtain airbags
were not fully developed for implementation in passenger vehicles in model
year 2001 and that it would have been neither possible nor prudent for Hyundai
to incorporate this technology in the Santa Fe at that time.
Mr. Cereghini is an Executive Managing Partner for the national product
liability defense firm of Bowman and Brooke LLP.
Plaintiff's experts were vehicle design engineer, Mr. Stephen R. Syson of
Carpinteria, California; accident reconstructionist, Mr. Robert J. Caldwell of
Lafayette, Colorado; biomechanic Dr. Dennis F. Shanahan of Carlsbad,
California; orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Keith Swanson of Zephr Cove, Nevada; and
economist, Terrance Dinneen, of Reno, Nevada.
Hyundai's experts were vehicle design engineer, Mr. Garry S. Bahling of
Metamora, Michigan; crash reconstructionist, Dr. Geoffrey J. Germane of Provo,
Utah; biomechanic, Dr. Thomas M. McNish, of San Antonio, Texas; and seat belt
design and performance engineer, Michael E. Klima of Novi, Michigan. The jury
also heard deposition testimony from multiple Hyundai engineers who were
involved in the development of the Santa Fe.
Hyundai's lead counsel was Paul G. Cereghini of Bowman and Brooke LLP,
Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Cereghini's co-counsel were Jeff Warren and Bryan Blehm
of Bowman and Brooke, LLP; Eugene J. Wait, Jr. of Wait Law Firm of Reno,
Nevada; and Thomas N. Vanderford, Jr. and Mark A. Chirco of Hyundai Motor
Plaintiff's lead counsel was C. Tab Turner of Turner & Associates of North
Little Rock, Arkansas. Mr. Turner was assisted pre-trial by Jerry M. White of
Turner & Associates and Raymond O. Bodiford of Law Offices of Raymond
Bodiford, P.A., of Orlando, Florida and at trial by Peter D. Durney of Durney,
Brennan & Bradshaw of Reno, Nevada.
About Bowman and Brooke LLP
Bowman and Brooke LLP is a national product liability defense firm. The
firm's nearly 200 attorneys defend a variety of corporate clients, including
many Global 500 companies, in widely publicized product-related litigation
throughout all 50 states. The firm has offices in Minneapolis, Phoenix,
Detroit, San Jose, Los Angeles, Richmond, Columbia, Dallas, and Austin. For
more information on the firm visit www.bowmanandbrooke.com.
SOURCE Bowman and Brooke LLP
Contact: Paul G. Cereghini, Bowman and Brooke Executive Managing Partner,
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