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Case of the Month May 2020

Hyundai Pays $38M for Injuries Casued by Defective Driver's Seat

Vanderventer v. Hyundai Motor Company

Case Type:
Products Liability - Vehicle Seat

Specific Liability:
Driver seat allegedly failed when plaintiff's vehicle was struck from rear

General Injury:

State: Wisconsin
Circuit Court of Wisconsin, Second Judicial District, Racine County.

Related Court Documents:
Plaintiff's amended complaint: 2017 WL 11509057
Defenant Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Motor America's pretrial brief: 2020 WL 1156150
Plaintiff's pretrial order: 2020 WL 1156149
Verdict form 2020 WL 1158292

Case Name:
Vanderventer v. Hyundai Motor Company; Hyundai Motor America; Schwartz

Docket/File Number:

Result Amount:

Result Date:
February 12, 2020

Eugene A. Gasiorkiewicz

Plaintiff: Timothy S. Trecek, Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., Milwaukee, WI
Plaintiff: Jesse B. Blocher, Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., Waukesha, WI
Plaintiff: Elissa Bowlin, Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., Milwaukee, WI
Plaintiff: Susan Tyndall, Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., Milwaukee, WI
Defendant: Tom Vanderford, Hyundai Motor America Litigation Counsel, Fountain Valley, CA
Defendant:Gary A. Wolensky, Buchalter, Irvine, CA
Defendant:Patrick S. Nolan, Quarles & Brady L.L.P., Milwaukee, WI
Defendant:Denean K. Sturino, O'Hagan Meyer, Chicago, IL
Defendant:Christopher J. Conrad, DeMark, Kolbe & Brodek S.C., Racine, WI

Result Type:

Plaintiff: Physiatrist: Clearfield, Jacob, Racine, WI
Plaintiff: Biomechanics: Saczalski, Kenneth, Ph.D., Technology Inc, Laguna Beach, CA
Plaintiff: Accident Reconstruction: Erdtmann, Paul, P.E., Madison, WI
Plaintiff: Life Care Planning: Albers, Michele, Phoenix, AZ
Plaintiff: Economist: Egge, Karl, Ph.D., St. Paul, MN
Defendant: Neuroradiologist: Camacho, Daniel, Mequon, WI
Defendant: Biomechanics: Viano, David, Ph.D., ProBiomechanics, LLC, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Defendant: Injury Causation Analysis: McNish, Thomas, Ph.D., San Antonio, TX
Defendant: Automotive Engineer: Lange, Robert, Menlo Park, CA
Defendant: Accident Reconstruction: Klima, Michael, P.E., Design Research Engineering, Novi, MI
Defendant: Life Care Planner: Entwhistle, Joseph, Bagley, WI

Breakdown of Award:
Gross: $38,164,263
Compensatory Pain & Suffering: $14,100,000
Compensatory Past Medical: $3,564,263
Compensatory Future Medical: $13,500,000
Total Compensatory Award: $31,164,263
Loss of Services: $7,000,000
Loss of Services by Spouse: Yes
Comparative Negligence Percentage: 0

Summary of Facts:
Edward Vanderventer Jr., an adult male, suffered spinal fracture dislocation at T5-T6, which rendered him a paraplegic, when the driver's seat of his 2013 Hyundai Elantra, designed, manufactured and sold by defendants Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Motor America, allegedly failed when his vehicle was struck from the rear at a speed between 37-46 mph by a vehicle operated by defendant Kayla Schwartz. The plaintiff contended that defendants Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Motor America were negligent in the design of the driver's seat and that the vehicle was in a defective state when it left their possession. He claimed that the posts and guides in the head restraint from the seat deformed towards his spine as a result of the collision. Vanderventer also alleged the Hyundai defendants eliminated the active head restraint in the vehicle to save approximately $7 per seat and that they failed to perform a design failure mode and effects analysis on the seat. The Hyundai defendants claimed the plaintiff had a pre-existing condition, Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis, which caused his paraplegia and would have occurred in any seat in any vehicle. They also contended that the theory of injury causation was impossible and that the alleged defect had never occurred before. The court determined that Schwartz was negligent, and that her negligence was a cause of the accident. A jury found that the 2013 Hyundai Elantra was in a defective condition, which was a cause of injury to the plaintiff, Hyundai was negligent with respect to the design or testing of the driver's seat of the 2013 Hyundai Elantra, and Hyundai's negligence was a cause of injuries to the plaintiff. The panel determined Schwartz was 16% causally negligent and the Hyundai defendants were 84% causally negligent. The award for past medical expenses included $770,000 for the past nursing services of Susan Venderventer.

Circuit Court of Wisconsin, Second Judicial District, Racine County.

Westlaw Citation:
2020 WL 1327583

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