DBMS represented the defendant automobile manufacturer in the trial, in which plaintiffs claimed one severe injury and multiple deaths after their rented minivan experienced an early morning rollover on Interstate 74, outside of Indianapolis.
The vehicle was traveling in the passing lane, due to construction in the driving lane. The driving lane was 5-7 inches lower than the passing lane. The right-side tires of the vehicle dripped off the passing lane and down into the driving lane, and the vehicle struck several construction barrels.
The driver steered sharply to the left to bring the right-side tires back up onto the passing lane. This resulted in a sideways skid of the vehicle across the passing lane and into the dirt median. The driver then over-corrected the steering to the right.
As the vehicle skidded back onto the road surface, it began to rollover. Four unbelted plaintiffs were ejected from the vehicle. Three out of the four died from their injuries. The remaining plaintiff was rendered blind and brain-damaged.
Plaintiffs claimed that the vehicle was unstable and had a propensity to rollover in foreseeable driving situations. The Defense argued that the vehicle had reasonable resistance to rollover. The defendant also claimed that many multi-passenger vehicles would have rolled over in the same situation and that the severe driving inputs were the sole proximate cause of the accident.
Plaintiffs sought nearly $30 million in compensatory damages. The jury returned four defense verdicts against the four plaintiffs and in favor of the defense within two hours, and found that the driver was the sole proximate cause of the accident.
On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the verdict for the manufacturer.
The Appellate Court rejected plaintiffs’ contentions that the judgment and verdict should be reversed because of certain evidentiary rulings by the judge. Plaintiffs were also rebuffed in their request for a new trial.