Nevada Supreme Court Upheld $32.2 million Against Goodyear

The below story shows how a single car accident in Las Vegas can destroy the lives of so many families. This was not only a vehicle case, but also a wrongful death case that shook Las Vegas residents to their core. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these victims.

The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld a $32.2 million judgment in Clark County against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company related to a single-car accident that killed three people and injured seven.

The court rejected the claim of Goodyear that the amount awarded by the jury was excessive.

The majority decision, written by Justice Mark Gibbons, said there was sufficient evidence to justify the amount because of the loss of life and serious injuries and it does “not shock our judicial conscience.”

The car’s occupants were traveling from Nevada to Kansas to attend a boxing match when a tire blew out and the vehicle overturned near Moab, Utah, on Interstate 70 on Aug. 16, 2004. Killed were Evertina Tapia, Andres Torres and Frank Enriquez.

A suit was filed by the surviving relatives and guardians of the children against Goodyear, Ford Motor Company and Valley View Hitch & Truck Rental. Both Ford and Valley View settled their claim.

During the pre-trial maneuvering, District Judge Sally Loehrer found that Goodyear failed to produce a witness and gave improper responses to interrogatories. She found that Goodyear “has taken the approach of stalling, obstructing and objecting” in its pre-trial behavior. As a sanction, Loehrer ruled that Goodyear could not present a defense of liability but only could argue to the jury the amount of compensatory damages and if it was subject to punitive damages.

The jury came back with the $32.2 million verdict but didn’t return punitive damages.

The survivors also appealed Loehrer’s decision that they would have to establish liability to receive punitive damages. The Supreme Court, however, backed up Loehrer in her ruling on the issue.

Justice Kristina Pickering dissented from the majority, saying Judge Loehrer imposed an “excessive penalty” on Goodyear’s pre-trial conduct. She said there was no evidentiary hearing to decide the disputed issues of fact over the blown tire.

She said the most fundamental of due process rights for Goodyear were violated.

Source: Las Vegas Sun

Judge Awards Las Vegas Woman $8.9 Million in Traffic Lawsuit

A judge awarded about $8.9 million Wednesday to a Las Vegas woman who was permanently injured in a 2005 accident.

District Judge James Bixler awarded the judgment to Melissa Burnside, 43, who was self-employed as a mortgage processor at the time of the accident.

“My client was very, very happy and felt the judge was very fair in the award,” attorney Robert Vannah said.

Vannah and attorney Dallas Horton represented Burnside during the bench trial in May, for this horrific car accident case in Las Vegas.

Attorney John Naylor, who represents defendants Wayne Fowler and FKI Logistex Integration, declined to comment on Bixler’s decision.

The attorneys submitted their closing arguments to the judge in writing on June 15.

According to Bixler’s order, Burnside was driving on the offramp from southbound Interstate 15 to the eastbound Las Vegas Beltway on Jan. 5, 2005, when a truck driven by Fowler, a Texas resident who was working for FKI, dropped a large metal object in front of her vehicle.

Burnside struck the object, and her vehicle “made several gyrations” before coming to a rest along the side of the beltway, according to the order.

The vehicle suffered moderate damage.

“The Plaintiff was treated and released at an emergency room, but returned for further treatment shortly, as she continued experiencing pain along her right side and back,” the judge wrote.

Burnside was treated by many health care professionals during the years that followed.

“She experienced some treatment successes, but, generally, got worse; she suffered greater pain and began experiencing increasing debilitating use of her right leg,” Bixler wrote.

A medical procedure was performed to relieve pressure on her sciatic nerve, according to the judge’s order. But it resulted in scarring on the nerve, “contributing to long-term and permanent debilitation and loss of use of her right leg.”

“The Plaintiff will require periodic medical pain-relieving procedures to control pain in her back, which will continue throughout the Plaintiff’s life due to the permanency of her condition,” Bixler wrote.

According to the order, the defense asserted that Burnside’s condition was caused by a fall down three stairs five months after the accident.

“The considerable weight of the medical evidence would indicate that Plaintiff was on a downward medical spiral from the time of the auto accident until the present,” the judge wrote.

“Nevertheless, Plaintiff’s fall appears to have been associated with symptoms experienced from injuries complained of from the auto accident, and similar worsening symptoms have been experienced continuously since the auto accident.”

According to the order, Burnside will have no earning capacity and only limited physical mobility.

Vannah said he and Horton sought a $17 million judgment for Burnside, who is married and has three children.

He said Naylor recommended a $176,000 judgment.


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