Aug 25

Evidence Of Similar Incidents Relating To An Alleged Defect Can Be Used In Some Product Liability Lawsuits

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Evidence Of Similar Incidents Relating To An Alleged Defect Can Be Used In Some Product Liability Lawsuits

Very often, people who sustain injuries from the use of a poorly designed or carelessly manufactured product demand compensation for their injuries from the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer. The plaintiff here does not need to prove that the defendant was careless and failed to consider the health and safety of the consumer. These products liability lawsuits are under a theory of strict liability. However, if a plaintiff can prove that a defendant had knowledge of the alleged defect, the damages they are entitled to receive may likely increase.

Establishing that a defendant knew about an alleged defect is not often easy. But through “other similar incident” (OSI) evidence, a plaintiff can successfully prove that a defendant was fully aware of the said defect. The OSI which in most cases is presented through an expert witness, reveals other incidents where the same product caused an injury similar to that which the plaintiff alleges. Recently, a federal appellate court deliberated on the OSI evidence and when it may be used.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were at a highway offramp when they were stopped by the red light. Suddenly a 1996 Toyota Camry which was believed to have been traveling at 75 miles per hour hit them. The driver at the time explained that instead of stopping, the car began to accelerate when the brakes were applied. Several years after the incident, a recall of 1996 Toyota Camrys was announced by Toyota due to many other reports that the cars were randomly accelerating and that the brakes could not stop the car when applied.

The plaintiffs who were represented by a personal injury attorney, filed a product liability claim against Toyota alleging that the manufacturer was aware of the defect and instead of addressing it promptly they chose to ignore it. Therefore, the manufacturer should be held responsible for their injuries. The plaintiffs supported their claim by presenting OSI evidence through an expert witness. Although Toyota objected to the OSI evidence, the trial permitted it and eventually ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Not satisfied with the verdict, Toyota appealed, arguing that the lower court was wrong to have allowed the OSI evidence. Though the court agreed that in some cases, the OSI evidence could be of great use when trying to determine if the defendant knew of an alleged defect, however, it could end up confusing the relevant issues at trial in other cases. Hence courts should be careful when handling OSI evidence.

In this case, the court said that the OSI evidence was properly admitted. Since the OSI evidence is similar to the accident for which the plaintiffs demand compensation, the court concluded that the admission of the OSI evidence by the lower court was proper, and therefore jury’s verdict remains valid.

If you have sustained any injury from the use of a poorly manufactured product, contact a personal injury attorney, a car accident lawyer or an auto accident lawyer.