Editor’s Note: Here’s a personal injury case that has a lot of interesting aspects to it.
Two personal injury attorneys at Morgan & Morgan, a multi-focused law firm in Orlando, Florida recently secured a $2,910,565 verdict for a woman who was hit by her own car in a CarMax parking lot. The award was made due to what jurors felt was a breakdown in communication between a CarMax salesperson and an appraiser, which subsequently caused the accident and injury to occur.
CarMax is a national used-car retailer, the largest in the country, and a Fortune 500 company. It has 173 locations around the United States.
An unfortunate set of circumstances
The client and her husband wanted to trade in their manual transmission car and had gone to CarMax to get it appraised. The couple had a remote starter installed after they had first purchased their car, which they pointed out to the car salesperson.
The salesperson gave the remote key fob to the appraiser who appraised the car and then parked it in the CarMax parking lot. Unfortunately, he left the car in gear. He also had not been told about the remote starter. He delivered the appraisal information to the couple and gave the keys back to the client’s spouse.
As the couple approached their car in the parking lot, the husband activated the remote starter. Because the car was still in gear, activation of the remote caused the car to start moving. It then hit the woman who suffered a fractured pelvis from the impact. Even after undergoing surgery, she continued to live in pain.
CarMax tried to settle the case out of court, but would not offer more than $125,000, an amount the attorneys felt was ridiculously low considering the fact that the woman would likely require additional medical attention and would likely be in pain for the rest of her life.
What makes this case so interesting is that an expert that CarMax hired testified that the automatic start system was defectively installed in the couple’s manual transmission vehicle. It was this defect that caused the car to start and then move while it was in gear, once the remote key fob was activated.
This information definitely caused the plaintiff’s attorneys to pause. If they were to win the case, they had to rebut the defect allegation and they couldn’t. What they had to do was focus on the failure of communication between the car salesperson and the appraiser who wasn’t informed of the remote starter.
In questioning the CarMax expert, plaintiff attorneys were able to get him to admit that the main cause of the accident was not the defective starter. The expert conceded that the accident would not have occurred if it was not for the miscommunication between the salesperson and the appraiser. The vehicle should have been parked just as the husband had left it; in neutral, with the parking brake on.
The jury agreed that the failure of communication was the proximate cause of the victim’s lifelong injury and pain, despite any defective installation of the remote starter, and awarded the woman almost $3 million.
We would love to hear any thoughts you may have about this case.
Group Matrix Blog – May 15, 2018 – by Sharon Bowles