Evidence of Similar Incidents Involving an Alleged Defect May Be Admissible in Some Product Liability Lawsuits

When someone is injured due to a negligently designed or defectively manufactured product, they may be able to pursue compensation for their injuries from several parties, including the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer. These product liability lawsuits often are brought under a theory of strict liability, which does not require a plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent. However, it may benefit a plaintiff to establish that a defendant did know about the alleged defect because this may increase the damages that they are entitled to obtain.One way that product liability plaintiffs can establish a defendant’s knowledge of an alleged defect is through “other similar incident” (OSI) evidence. OSI evidence, often presented through an expert witness, tells of other incidents in which the same product caused an injury or was defective in a manner which is similar to that which the plaintiff alleges. A recent case issued by a federal appellate court discusses OSI evidence and when it may be appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a red light at the end of a highway off-ramp when a 1996 Toyota Camry traveling at 75 miles per hour rear-ended them. At the time, the driver explained that he tried to brake, but the car instead began to accelerate. It was not until several years later that Toyota announced a recall of 1996 Toyota Camrys, based on several other reports that the vehicles were randomly accelerating and could not be stopped by applying the brakes.

The plaintiffs filed a product liability claim against Toyota, claiming that the car manufacturer should be responsible for their injures. In support of their claim that Toyota knew about the alleged defect but failed to address it, the plaintiffs presented OSI evidence through an expert witness. Toyota objected to the OSI evidence, but the trial court permitted it. Ultimately, the jury returned a $14 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. Toyota appealed.

On appeal, Toyota argued that the lower court was improper to allow the OSI evidence. The court began its analysis by noting that while OSI evidence can help the jury determine if the defendant had knowledge of an alleged defect in some cases, in other cases, it confuses the relevant issues at trial, so courts should take care when handling OSI evidence.

Here, the court concluded, the OSI evidence was properly admitted. The court explained that the main inquiry is whether the OSI evidence is factually similar to the accident at issue. In this case, the OSI evidence involved 1996 Toyota Camrys with over 100,000 miles, just like the vehicle that was involved in the accident. Additionally, the OSI evidence was factually very similar to what the plaintiff alleged occurred in this case in that it involved drivers who reported random acceleration when they took their foot off the gas and were unable to stop the car by applying the brakes. Thus, the court concluded that the lower court was proper to admit the evidence, and the jury’s verdict was affirmed.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while using a dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a South Florida product liability lawsuit. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience handling a wide range of product liability cases, including those involving faulty ignition and braking systems. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Limits Truck Owner’s Liability, Finding that He Loaned Truck to At-Fault Driver, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 6, 2017.

Who Is Responsible in Florida When Someone Causes an Accident Using a Borrowed or Stolen Car?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.

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