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South Carolina Supreme Court Reverses $31 Million Verdict in Favor of Ford

Hampton County, SC
Aug 16, 2010

Branham v. Ford

CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.

The SC Supreme Court has reversed and remanded for a new trial a $31 million plaintiff verdict in the case Branham v. Ford. Tried twice in 2006, the first ending in mistrial, in Hampton County, South Carolina -- where verdicts for corporate defendants in civil actions are virtually unheard of -- the Supreme Court has ruled several factors that have direct implications for SC product liability law, such as: (1) post--manufacture evidence is not relevant to liability in a design case; (2) the "risk-utility" analysis should be sole test; and (3) proof of an alternative feasible design is a requirement for PL plaintiffs. It also strengthens the "substantial similarity" requirement for admissibility of "other incident" evidence.

Moreover, the South Carolina Supreme Court said the plaintiffs' counsel's argument to the jury and "was designed to inflame and prejudice the jury" and it "relied heavily on inadmissible evidence." Plaintiffs' counsel's "closing argument invited the jury to base its verdict on passion rather than reason" and it "denied Ford a fair trial."

Counsel for Ford Motor Company:
APPELLATE COUNSEL: C. Mitchell Brown, William C. Wood, Jr., Beth Burke Richardson and A. Mattison Bogan all with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, of Columbia and Elbert S. Dorn and Nicholas W. Gladd, both of Turner, Padgett, Graham & Laney, PA of Columbia.

TRIAL COUNSEL: David R. Kelly and C. Paul Carver of Bowman and Brooke LLP of Minneapolis with Edward C. Stewart of Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP of Denver and Elbert S. Dorn of Turner, Padgett, Graham & Laney of Columbia.

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