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Product Liability Lawsuit Results in $9.8 Million Jury Verdict

A California man, 35 years old, was awarded $9.8 million by a jury following a product liability trial concerning claims of a defective wheelchair designed and manufactured by Sunrise Medical LLC and later sold and repaired by National Seating and Mobility, Inc. The product at issue was the Quickie Q7 manual wheelchair. In 2014, the victim suffered a puncture wound from an inward-facing bolt on the chair. One month later, he suffered further injury to that area when a screw came loose and he was ejected from the wheelchair. He suffered a nerve injury that doctors advised may never resolve.

The victim sued for defective design, manufacture, failure to warn, and defective repairs. At issue during the 15-day trial was a design change made to the wheelchair back in 2013. The wheelchair manufacturer had received complaints that certain bolts on the wheelchair were backing out. Thus, the product was redesigned in a way that placed those bolts facing inwards. The victim was injured through one of those inward-facing bolts. The trial included proof and testimony from expert witnesses who claimed the bolts were not strong enough to support the average user, making the product unsafe and dangerous. The jury deliberated for two days, and the $9.8 verdict was broken down as follows:

  • $4.8 million in economic damages for a life care plan for the victim
  • $3 million in non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.)
  • $2 million in future non-economic damages

All states have product liability laws in place to protect people like this California victim. He used a product (his wheelchair) in an ordinary manner, as any consumer would think to use it. Due to a dangerous design element, he suffered permanent nerve damage which will undoubtedly affect his ability to support himself and enjoy life as he would prefer. The injury has also caused significant physical pain, not to mention numerous doctor appointments, surgeries, and other forms of follow-up treatment.

Cases involving allegations of defective design commonly require testimony from a qualified expert witness. An expert can inspect the product and opine how it could have been designed to avoid injury to users. Under Tennessee law, a product will be considered “unreasonably dangerous” if it is dangerous “to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer who purchases it, with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to its characteristics.” This definition also includes a product that “would not be put on the market by a reasonably prudent manufacturer or seller,” provided that they knew of the dangerous element or condition. This definition can be found in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-108(8).

Product liability is a broad area of the law. It encompasses ordinary products like wheelchairs, but also component parts of a larger product, such as an airbag. Thus, if you were rear-ended in a car accident in Tennessee and pushed into a tree, but your airbag failed to deploy, you may be able to assert a product liability claim against the airbag manufacturer as well as a negligence claim against the driver that struck your vehicle.

Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz is a large regional law firm, and we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of injured victims. Call us today at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Our personal injury attorneys handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we do not recover an attorney fee unless we are able to recover compensation on your behalf. NST IS THE WAY TO GO…