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  • Defense Verdict - Products

Defense Verdict - Automotive Products Liability
(Whitfield vs. General Motors Corporation)

 

Plaintiff Josh Whitfield is the father of injured minor Taylor Reid Whitfield, who was 15 months old at the time of the accident.

General Motors presented testimony that the design of the fold down, split rear seat feature of the Alero was neither defective nor unreasonably dangerous and that the purpose-built barrier proposed by Plaintiff’s expert James Mundo was not used in vehicles with a similar feature by any other automobile manufacturer in the world. General Motors’ expert biomechanic, Dr. Thomas McNish, also testified that the minimal intrusion of the stroller into the occupant compartment did not cause Reid Whitfield’s injuries. Rather, the skull fracture likely occurred because Reid’s head was positioned several inches forward of the child seat back, which was accelerated toward Plaintiff’s head upon impact with the SUV and allowed sufficient forces to be created that could have caused Plaintiff’s injury when his child seat back struck his head.

As a result of the collision, Reid Whitfield sustained a non-displaced, non-depressed occipital parietal skull fracture with acute intraventricular hemorrhaging. He was transferred to Cardinal Glennon Hospital, where he was hospitalized for 16 days. He was discharged for home care and speech, occupational, and physical therapy. At that time, he could neither speak nor sit up due to the permanent brain injury he had sustained. Although Reid recuperated from his physical injuries, his brain injury resulted in developmental delays and permanent and significant cognitive deficits.

At the time of trial, Reid’s medical bills totaled over $205,000. His life care plan was estimated to cost between $986,000 and $3,774,000.

The following experts testified on behalf of General Motors: Todd Hoover, of Tandy Engineering, in Houston, Texas, on accident reconstruction; Huizhen Lu, of General Motors, and Bob Sinke, former General Motors employee, of Detroit, Michigan, on rear structure design; Dr. Joseph Rice, of Tuscon, Arizona, on seat design; and Dr. Thomas McNish on biomechanics and injury mechanism.

Plaintiff’s last pre-trial demand was $1,000,000. Plaintiff asked for between $13,000,000 and $15,000,000 in closing arguments.

The jury returned a verdict for GM after less than one hour of deliberation.