The plaintiff was injured when a squad car driven by a police officer struck her vehicle. The police officer claimed that the brakes in the squad car failed just prior to the accident.
The police officer and the municipality brought a third-party action against the defendant automobile manufacturer. They alleged that the master cylinder, a part of the braking system in the squad car, malfunctioned. Three days after the accident, the squad car was taken to a dealership, where a mechanic replaced the master cylinder and discarded it.
At trial, the defense argued that, despite the fact that the master cylinder was discarded before the defendant could inspect it, all of the other evidence demonstrated that the part did not malfunction. For example, the police officer admitted that the brakes worked both before and after the accident; the minimal damage to both vehicles suggested that the brakes worked right before the accident occurred; and the police officer apologized to the plaintiff right after the accident.
The jury deliberated for one hour before rendering a verdict in favor of the defendant and against both the police officer and the municipality. The plaintiff had undergone surgeries for a torn rotator cuff and carpal tunnel syndrome and had $51,000 in medical bills. The jury's verdict against the police officer and the municipality totaled $262,000.