CVN screenshot of defense attorney Michael O'Donnell delivering his closing argument. Click here to see video from the trial.
St. George, SC - A South Carolina state court jury handed a win to tire manufacturer Michelin North America Inc. on Wednesday, finding that a Michelin tire's supposed manufacturing defect didn’t cause a motorcycle accident than left the driver paralyzed and his wife seriously injured.
The Dorchester County jury deliberated for just over four hours after hearing closing arguments in a trial that began on November 8. Attorneys for plaintiffs Ron and Rose Nash claimed the Michelin Commander II mounted on Ron’s bike blew out due to a manufacturing defect, seeking roughly $17 million in economic damages and unspecified non-economic damages, but Michelin successfully argued the tire was under-inflated and not properly maintained.
The full trial was webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network. Unlimited on-demand access to the proceedings, including all witness testimony, is available with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library, which features gavel-to-gavel video from hundreds of civil trials throughout the United States, including numerous automotive product liability cases.
Attorney Michael O’Donnell of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell, who represented Michelin, told CVN after the trial that while the jurors understood the plaintiffs were victims of a “horrific and life-altering accident” that the evidence they saw cleared Michelin of any liability.
“The science and facts demonstrated that Michelin produced a safe tire that, unfortunately, had not been properly maintained,” O’Donnell said.
Attorney William Applegate of Yarborough Applegate, who represented the plaintiffs, told CVN he would pursue an appeal.
“We feel strongly about the defect in this product and feel that errors were made with regards to the evidence and charges which made plaintiffs burden untenable,” Applegate said. “We believe we will have another opportunity to pursue this claim by way of an appeal.”
During the trial Applegate and his team blamed the crash on a manufacturing defect known as an “open inner liner splice,” which occurs when the various layers in the tire aren’t properly fused together, which can cause a leak in the tire’s air membrane.
However O’Donnell repeatedly argued throughout the trial the blowout resulted from a “damaged tire, not a defective tire.”
O’Donnell told CVN the case is an example of jurors having to set aside understandable sympathy for the plaintiffs while weighing the evidence.
“The verdict sends a strong statement that, when manufacturers have made a good product in compliance with industry standards and best practices, and when they have acted in good faith and have the facts on their side, even the most sympathetic plaintiffs will have a hard time seeking remedy in the courts,” O’Donnell said.
He suggested the emotional reaction to plaintiffs like the Nashes can be counterbalanced by a direct but respectful presentation of the underlying science.
“Catastrophic injury cases can be won and overwhelming sympathy can be ameliorated with sensitivity and by presenting the science and engineering principles at play in a clear and cogent manner,” O’Donnell said.
The South Carolina trial took place before Judge Maite Murphy.
The case is captioned Ronald and Rose Nash v. Michelin North America Inc., case number 2019-CP-18-00080 in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial Circuit.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org