St. Louis Team Secures Defense Verdict in High-Exposure Products Liability Recall Matter
St. Louis, Mo. (November 15, 2023) - St. Louis Partners Rick Mueller and Heather F. Counts recently secured a defense verdict on behalf of Suzuki in a high-exposure products liability matter.
This case arose from a motorcycle accident that resulted in the death of a 26-year-old man. The plaintiff, the decedent’s mother, asserted claims against Lewis Brisbois’ client for negligence, design defect, and failure to warn. She sought over $50 million in damages, contending that the accident occurred due to a defect in the motorcycle’s front brake master cylinder, which had been the subject of a recall. At the time of the accident, a driver made a left hand turn in front of the motorcycle, later claiming that she did not see the motorcycle. The plaintiff asserted that although her son applied the brakes on his motorcycle, the front brake was not working and thus he could not avoid the collision.
After the plaintiff and the driver reached a settlement on the morning of jury selection, the matter proceeded to a five-week trial. The plaintiff presented expert testimony that the allegedly defective front brake master cylinder was present and that, therefore, the brake was not working. The plaintiff further contended that the skid marks at the scene of the accident were from the rear brake only. However, Suzuki presented evidence that the skid marks were from the front brake, which indicated that the brake was functional. In addition, the police officer who checked the brakes at the scene concluded that they were working.
Moreover, evidence from accident reconstructionists established that it was unlikely that any brakes would have been able to avoid this accident. Although there was conflicting evidence regarding whether the decedent was speeding on his motorcycle, it was undisputed that that the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the motorcycle. It was also established that the driver was not speeding and that neither party was intoxicated.
Importantly, evidence concerning the recall was admitted into the case. Lewis Brisbois presented evidence establishing that Suzuki mailed the recall notice to the decedent a year before the accident occurred. The plaintiff, however, denied receiving the recall notice and claimed that Suzuki was negligent in the delivery of the notices. Notably, there was no evidence that the decedent ever experienced any problems with the brakes during the two years that he rode the motorcycle. The prior owner, who rode the motorcycle for two and a half years before selling it to the decedent, also had no problems with the brakes.
The plaintiff ultimately submitted only her negligence claim to the jury. After deliberating for approximately five hours, the jury returned a 12-0 verdict in favor of Suzuki. Specifically, the jury concluded that the recall had nothing to do with the accident, but rather that the driver was 100% responsible for the death of the plaintiff’s son.
Mr. Mueller is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Products Liability and Toxic Tort & Environmental Litigation Practices. With more than 40 years of litigation experience, he has earned defense verdicts for manufacturers in courts across the country, taking more than 100 jury trials to verdict in numerous venues. He and Ms. Counts have been successful in other products liability cases involving recalls, notwithstanding that these matters are challenging due to the admission of a defect.
Ms. Counts is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Products Liability and Toxic Tort & Environmental Litigation Practices. She has spent her career representing clients in the defense of consumer products claims and commercial litigation. Ms. Counts acts as national counsel for manufacturers facing litigation in state and federal courts.