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Unanimous Defense Verdict for GM Dealership in Florida Rollover Claim

Broward County, FL
Jun 01, 2011

Martin v. General Motors

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.

In the highest exposure case to go to trial since the bankruptcy, a General Motors dealer was awarded a unanimous defense verdict by a Broward County, FL jury on June 1, 2011. Plaintiffs asked for $20 million during closing arguments in this three-week wrongful death trial, Martin v. Holler Oldsmobile.

The Martin case involved the death of 20-year-old Rachel Martin in a rollover of a GMT330 (1990's vintage Blazer/Jimmy/Bravada). The GMT330 was pegged by IIHS as the deadliest vehicle on the road.

At trial, the defense team had two critical issues to address – the claim the vehicle was unstable and secondly that the vehicle had a weak roof. The rollover was completely on-road, on flat, dry pavement. General Motors trial team successfully demonstrated to the jury, using technical experts and accident reconstruction tools, that the fatal injury occurred before there was any significant roof damage and the vehicle was stable and did not have a propensity to rollover. Instead, he showed the jury the crash occurred when the driver swerved and over-corrected at 60 m.p.h. to avoid an animal in the road. Additionally, the decedent was improperly belted, wearing the shoulder belt under her shoulder. The passenger, who was belted correctly at the time of the crash, survived with minor scrapes.

Attorneys for Plaintiff: Jack Scarola and Ed Ricci of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA

Attorneys for Defense: John Seipp, then of Seipp & Flick (Miami), now a partner at Bowman and Brooke, served as local counsel.

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