South Carolina Supreme Court Reinstates Verdict Against Ford
Charlotte, NC Personal Injury Lawyer
Earlier this month, the South Carolina Supreme Court reinstated a $900,000 award of damages in a wrongful death suit involving a defect in a Ford pickup truck. The initial lawsuit claimed that an off-duty sheriff was driving the truck in question when a teen pulled out in front and the driver swerved to try to avoid a collision. However, the collision occurred and the crash caused the driver-side door of the pickup truck to swing open. The crash caused the sheriff to be ejected from the vehicle through the door and caused his death.
Trial Verdict and Award
The deceased sheriff’s family filed a wrongful death suit, alleging that Ford, the vehicle manufacturer, was liable for the defective design of the door latch system of the truck. Because of the defect, the door opened upon impact and allowed the deceased sheriff’s ejection, causing his death. The suit went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $300,000 in actual damages but declined to award any punitive damages although it found clear and convincing evidence of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct on Ford’s part special info. Under a South Carolina statute, punitive damages may be awarded if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the harm was the result of the defendant’s willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.
In South Carolina, a party can ask a court for a new trial challenging that the verdict is either excessive or inadequate, and trial judges have to distinguish between awards that are merely unduly liberal or conservative and awards that are capricious or prejudicial. Here, the plaintiff asked for a new trial because the verdict was inadequate, and the trial judge granted an additional $600,000 in damages. The trial judge considered testimony and evidence showing the damages suffered by the family. Ford appealed, and the court of appeals set aside the new award and reinstated the original verdict. However, the South Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the trial court’s additional award of damages and reversed the court of appeals’ decision.
Under South Carolina law, damages from a wrongful death action may include expenses for care, treatment, and hospitalization, compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering, funeral expenses, monetary benefits that the victim provides to other persons, such as dependents, that may include the net income of the victim, services, protection, care, companionship, and guidance, and punitive damages if the wrongful act that caused the death was malicious, willful, or wanton.
Here, the trial judge stated that the testimony at trial established the deceased individual’s support, both moral and economic, of his family as well as the genuine love, affection, esteem, and regard held by the beneficiaries of his estate. Testimony also established grief, emotional turmoil, and loss suffered by family and non-family members. Therefore, the additional award of damages were warranted.
If damages are awarded, the damages are applied in the following order: first to pay the estate for the expense of pursuing the wrongful death claim, then to pay reasonable attorney’s fees and any outstanding funeral and medical bills, and finally to the decedent’s beneficiaries directly.
If you or a loved one plan to bring a wrongful death suit due to a defectively designed product, the attorneys at Bice Law, LLC can help you navigate the complexities involved in wrongful death cases. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.
Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law
The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability. We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly. Call 877-BICE-877 today or submit an online request to get a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.