CVN screenshot of defense attorney Thomas Klein delivering his closing argument
Las Vegas, NV - A Nevada state court jury has cleared Nissan of all liability for a fatal rollover accident involving a sport utility vehicle that supposedly occurred because of a defective design.
The jury returned its verdict on May 16 following a lengthy trial beginning April 18 in which plaintiffs sought over $25 million dollars in damages.
The family of decedents Kewal Singh, Jasvir Kaur, and Nirbhai Singh sued Nissan following a 2017 accident on a California highway, where a vehicle struck another car that then collided with the subject of the lawsuit, a 2004-model Nissan Xterra.
The family’s attorneys, seeking more than $25 million in damages, argued the Xterra lacked a safety system known as “Vehicle Dynamic Control” which can help keep a vehicle upright if it experiences excessive yaw following an impact. They also claimed the seatbelt system failed to function properly.
However Nissan’s attorneys successfully argued to the jury that the Xterra met all applicable federal safety standards, that a VDC system would not have prevented a rollover in such a severe crash, and that the seat belts were not properly worn at the time of the accident.
Courtroom View Network webcast and recorded the full trial gavel-to-gavel. Nissan filed a motion on the eve of trial seeking to bar the news media from filming the public trial proceedings, but their objections were overruled by Judge David Jones.
Subscribers to CVN’s online trial video library get unlimited access to the full proceedings, including all witness testimony and digital images of all exhibits and demonstratives, along with hundreds of other trials throughout the country including numerous automotive product liability trials.
After the trial attorney Paul Lee of Klein Thomas & Lee, who represented Nissan, told CVN that the company offers their condolences to the plaintiffs for their loss and thanked the jury for “listening to the facts of the case and arriving at a fair verdict.”
Attorney Christian Morris of Nettles Morris told CVN the plaintiffs plan to appeal the verdict citing issues with the jury selection process. She admitted focus groups told her she had a difficult set of facts to contend with heading into trial, and that jurors told her after the trial concluded they simply felt the impact from the collision was too severe.
“We lost on causation,” she said. “They just believed that any vehicle would have rolled in that situation because of the force of the impact of the other two cars.”
CVN screenshot of plaintiffs' attorney Christian Morris delivering her closing argument
Morris said that while the verdict is disappointing and the trial required a substantial amount of financial resources that plaintiff attorneys should not shy away from publicly discussing adverse verdicts.
"The reality of why I have no problem talking about a loss is because it is the gamble we take,” she said. “If you cannot lose you should not play the game.”
She told CVN the trial outcome only compounded her clients’ already difficult situation.
“I can’t tell you how devastated I am for them to have to relive the death of their loved ones and then have another loss in their life,” she said.
Morris acknowledged the reality plaintiff attorneys face working on contingency fees in complex trials that require millions of dollars to retain top-level expert witnesses and years of preparation, and she encouraged attorneys not to be too cavalier in taking on these types of cases.
“You have to make sure you use your resources in a smart fashion, meaning if you’re going to take cases like this you’re not doing it on credit - you’re doing it on the fact you have enough resources to do it, and if you don’t you pull in someone who does,” she said. “If you don’t have the money don’t sit down at the table.”
Morris lamented that a trial date just one week later or earlier could have resulted in an entirely different jury panel that might have delivered a different result, but she highlighted a favorite saying from baseball legend Babe Ruth that she said helps motivate her practice.
“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” she quoted.
The plaintiffs were also represented by Robins Cloud LLP and by The Mann Law Firm.
The defense was also represented by Alverson Taylor & Sanders.
The case is captioned Maninder Singh, et al. v. Nissan Motor Company LTD., et al., case number A-17-751024-C in Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County.
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