• Significant Punitive Damage Award Levied Against Car Manufacturer in Montana
  • May 21, 2014
  • Law Firm: Sutherland Asbill Brennan LLP - Washington Office
  • Yesterday, a Montana jury awarded the family of two teens involved in a fatal car crash $240 million in punitive damages because of an alleged manufacturing defect in the steering knuckles of the car’s suspension system. At trial, the manufacturer argued that the crash occurred because the teens were lighting fireworks in the car while the plaintiffs blamed the allegedly defective steering knuckle. The plaintiffs were allowed to introduce evidence of more than one hundred previous warranty replacements for steering knuckles to the jury. The jury also awarded the family $8.6 million in compensatory damages. The jury based the punitive damage award on a finding that the car manufacturer acted with actual malice by knowing of the defect and refusing to recall the vehicles to fix the issue. The plaintiffs originally asked the jury for an $80 million punitive damage award, but the jury multiplied the requested amount threefold. The verdict will undoubtedly be appealed, even if the presiding judge confirms the jury’s decision and award. Montana’s current punitive damages cap is $10 million but that cap is already under appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.