Mark Boyle secured a defense verdict for an automobile manufacturer in the Civil District Court in Orleans Parish (downtown New Orleans), often considered a challenging jurisdiction. Mr. Boyle teamed with New Orleans-based attorneys Keith McDaniel and Quincy Crochet of McCranie Sistrunk on this case.
The plaintiff, 57-year-old restaurant owner Michael Bordelon, was driving home from his restaurant at roughly 2:00 a.m. when he stopped for a red light in a residential section of New Orleans. While stopped, a disabled Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD, struck the rear of Bordelon’s vehicle at a disputed speed of 40-60 mph.
During the rear impact, the driver seat of Bordelon’s car deformed rearward. Bordelon, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered a serious diffuse axonal brain injury when he struck his head and upper body on the rear seat and middle rear seat belt retractor, which had been pushed into the rear passenger compartment by the intrusion from the impact.
The plaintiff and his experts claimed that a stronger and safer seat design existed that would have kept him upright and away from the intrusion. His expert pointed to belt-integrated seat designs in the 2005 time frame that the plaintiff claimed should have been put in Bordelon’s vehicle and would not have “collapsed” in such a way as to allow the head contact that resulted in the serious head injury.
By utilizing the automobile manufacturers’ experts and design engineers, DBMS established that Bordelon’s vehicle performed exceptionally well during development in high-speed rear-end collisions, especially compared to peer vehicles. The rear impact in this accident was extremely severe, and no seat design in 2005 would have prevented the plaintiff’s injuries in this high-speed accident.
Defense counsel also presented evidence that the alternative seat designs offered by the plaintiff would have the potential effect of increasing injuries to occupants in other crashes, including lower-speed crashes where the more rigid seat would create higher loads on the occupants’ neck and back, resulting in an overall increase in injuries.
The jury deliberated 3.5 hours before returning a verdict finding that the automobile manufacturer’s seat and restraint system were not unreasonably dangerous. The jury allocated 100% fault to the rear-ending driver (who denied drinking on the night of the accident, but pled guilty to DWI). The plaintiff’s attorney suggested the jury award between $5,441,000 and $20,441,000 in damages.
After finding against the disabled Vietnam veteran, the jury awarded plaintiff $1,241,000 in damages but found no fault was attributed to the design of the automobile manufacture’s front seat or restraint system.