Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 DRI Products Liability Conference



Since 2010, I have made it a priority to attend the Defense Research Institute's Products Liability Conference. This year's conference is being held April 9-11, 2013, in Phoenix, Arizona at the Arizona Biltmore.  The theme of this year's conference is "Plan and Prepare."

This conference is always outstanding. I try to attend it each year because (1) the programming keeps me updated from a practice standpoint, and (2) now that I have attended for a few years, there are more and more "familiar faces" for networking purposes.  I have made some great friends, and I have also gotten referrals from contacts made at the conference.  In my opinion, it is a "must attend" if you defend products liability cases.

In addition, I am in my first year serving as Chair of the Agricultural, Construction, Mining and Industrial Equipment ("ACMIE") Specialized Litigation Group ("SLG").  As you know from posts about prior conferences, ACMIE always has a breakout session, but things are a little different this year.  ACMIE actually has a "main stage" presentation in front of all conference attendees.  Our main stage presentation is entitled "Warn, Retrofit, or Recall: Risk Management Considerations for Legacy Equipment."  This presentation will focus on products liability claims involving older equipment.  (I had a legacy equipment case years ago involving an extremely old corn picker, and I can vouch for the fact that there are some challenges and nuances when dealing with these types of cases).  Kevin G. Owens (Johnson and Bell Ltd.), Jaime L. Myers (Caterpillar Inc.) and Daniel A. DuPre (Federal Signal Corporation) will present on this topic. at 2 p.m. on April 9, 2014 during the afternoon main stage portion.

On April 10, 2104, we will also have an abbreviated breakout session (due to the fact that we are doing a main stage presentation).  Our breakout session will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and we will have two presentations.  First, Mark E. Gebauer (Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC), Kristin K. Esche (Deere & Company) and David M. Nicholas (Volvo Construction Equipment North America LLC) will present on "Expert Witnesses: Inside or Outside?  The Pros and Cons."  Then, Matt Hundley (Moran Reeves & Conn PC Law Firm) will present our annual "ACMIE Top Ten for 2013."

If you have not already registered, I would urge you to plan to attend this conference and participate in our SLG meeting. All of the information about the conference and registration can be found at this link, and I hope you will make plans to attend.  You can also download the event brochure by clicking here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"The report of my death was an exaggeration . . . . . ." Mark Twain, May 31, 1897

From some quick online research, I believe Mark Twain is credited with the above quote, and it is frequently misquoted as "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."  Although "death," is certainly an exaggeration in my case, you have probably been wondering where I have been these last few months.  It has been way too long since my last post, so some explanation is in order.  It also provides me with a good opportunity to provide some retrospective commentary on this blog, which turns "5" in May of the year.  So . . . bear with me while I provide some context for "where I've been."

In the spring of 2009, I knew I would likely be transitioning to a different law firm -- or opening my own -- in the near future.  Around that time, I had a robust practice that had kept me busy.  However, the vast majority of my work was in a support role.  Truthfully, I had been practicing for ten years, but I had no real clients I could call my own.  Make no mistake, I worked very hard for the clients I serviced, but I was not "their lawyer" on speed dial.  If you were counting billable hours, I worked very hard.  However, I did not publish, speak, or really do any client development of my own.  I was a service lawyer (and I like to think I was a pretty good one).

This blog was my first real attempt to try and change things.  I wanted to develop my own practice, and I had a desire to "get my name out there."  By using blogger.com, the site was free.  Therefore, my small marketing budget was a non-factor.  The blog also had the potential to reach as far as Google's search optimization "spiders" would allow, so there was good potential for exposure.  The only real "cost" was my time.  Now . . . I am not sure how much you remember about 2009, but the legal industry took a real downturn; one thing I had was "time."  I began to pour some of my efforts into carving out my place on the internet and establishing myself as someone with knowledge of South Carolina products liability law. 

There were some immediate benefits to this blog.  By posting substantive content, I learned more and more about South Carolina products liability law (as opposed to pieces of products liability law around the county in the national practice I supported at the time).  People began to call me and ask questions about what I thought about some new products case, or tort reform.  It was also pretty gratifying to go on the site every day and see how many people visited, or the key words that brought them to the site.  Although a little disconcerting, I began to see key words like "Brian Comer South Carolina products liability law" that someone used to get to the site.  I thought, "Awesome! . . . It is only a matter of time before potential clients start calling!"

Well . . . yes and no.  I changed firms in the summer of 2009 and came to Collins & Lacy.  I remained very focused on building a practice.  I blogged frequently, and I published and spoke almost as frequently.  With a greater marketing budget, I became heavily involved in the Defense Research Institute, the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys' Association, and Primerus.  I blogged.  I spoke.  I published.  (Did I say I blogged?).

It took awhile.  I had a nice long list of publications and presentations, but it did not immediately yield fruit in terms of client development.  What it did do, however, was show that I had put some serious time into knowing and following this particular area of practice in South Carolina.  I continued to assist colleagues at my new firm with their work, and I remained focused on developing my own practice.

I seriously underestimated how long it would take.  However, about a year ago, I began to see my efforts at developing a practice "pop."  Here is the irony though: it did not start with products liability.  I also devote a fair amount of my practice to FINRA arbitration, which involves defending financial advisors and broker-dealers from claims by investors.  I really enjoy it.  I began to get calls about these types of claims, and I began to have some clients that called me to defend them.  I began to get much busier, which is evidenced by my decrease in blogging in 2013.  As 2013 ended and 2014 began, things "popped" again.  This time it was in products liability, FINRA arbitration, and general professional liability litigation.  Great clients (and I am grateful for every one of them), and great cases. 

All of the above is a long-winded way of saying . . . I have gotten very busy.  And, that is a very good thing.  It is the culmination of what started this blog to begin with: trying to develop my own practice, instead of serving in a support role. 

I recall that early in my legal career, a very well-known attorney told me that the key to building my own practice was to "write something, and then people will call you about it."  I do not completely agree with that statement.  Although there may be a science to practice development and legal marketing, I cannot say I have figured it out.  All I know is that I wrote and presented quite a bit (not just "something"), and I focused on doing good work for the clients I serviced and who called me.  It paid off.  It just took longer than I realized when I set out to do it.

For anyone at any stage of their legal career who may be reading this and who may be trying to figure out how to develop their practice, I encourage you to keep at it!  I am not sure there is any set formula.  The above is what (eventually) worked for me, but I am sure there are alternate routes.  I think any route likely involves some measure of publishing, presenting, and becoming involved in organizations . . . all in an effort to "get your name out there." 

So . . . where to go from here?  More of the same, I hope.  I genuinely enjoy blogging, and my apologies that this site has not been as active as it was prior to 2013.  However, even though I really enjoy blogging, the blog was never an "end" in and of itself.  It was a means to trying to develop a practice, and it has served that end.  I hope to continue to update it as my time allows, and I now need to assess how to make time to do that.  I will continue to try and update it as often as I can, and I greatly appreciate all the visitors who drop by.  I have had some nice people tell me that it has provided a great resource for them, and I greatly appreciate those compliments. 

Stay tuned!  I hope to continue to bring you thoughtful commentary on South Carolina products liability law, and I will make every effort to do it with as much consistency as I can.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Verdict Survey: $38 Million Asbestos Verdict in Richland County

About two weeks ago, I saw my friend Theile McVey at Starbucks.  She mentioned in our general chit-chat that she was in trial.  As shop talk usually goes, I asked her what kind of case it was, and she said it was an asbestos case.  Apparently, it went pretty well.  I don't have much in terms of details and will try to update this post if/when I get more information, but for now, John Monk at The State Newspaper did a nice article today, which can be found here and is cut and pasted below.  (I added in a few hyperlinks for additional information).

Richland County jury awards $38 million in asbestos case
Published: September 12, 2013 Updated 12 hours ago
By JOHN MONK — jmonk@thestate.com
A Richland County jury has awarded a Wagener equipment worker and his wife $38 million in damages for health problems linked to exposure to asbestos.
Following a 21/2-week trial, the jury awarded plaintiff Lloyd Strom Garvin, 74, $10 million in actual damages and another $1 million in actual damages to his wife of 50-plus years, Velda Garvin, for loss of consortium.
The jury also ordered defendants Durco and Crane Co. to pay $11 million each in punitive damages to Lloyd Garvin. It ordered a third defendant, Byron Jackson, to pay $5 million in punitive damages.
A spokesman for Crane said Thursday the company will appeal. Among possible grounds for appeal are “no credible evidence” and excessive and unwarranted jury awards, said TerryBudd, a Pittsburgh lawyer who represents Crane.
“The verdict is flawed,” Budd said. “We’re definitely appealing.”
Efforts to reach Charleston attorney Tim Bouch, who represented Durco and Byron Jackson during the trial, were unsuccessful Thursday.
Durco, Byron Jackson and Crane are major companies that manufacture pumps and valves. Garvin contended his years of exposure to their asbestos-containing gaskets and packing in valves and pumps that he used in factory and farm work caused him to develop mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that plaintiffs said was nearly always caused by asbestos exposure.
The jury was out some four hours and returned a final verdict around 9 p.m. Wednesday night. Circuit Judge Garrison Hill of Greenville presided.
Originally, Garvin’s lawsuit named 13 defendants, but most had been dropped or settled by the time the trial began Aug. 26.
Garvin’s lawyers, Jessica Dean of Dallas and Theile McVey of the Columbia firm Kassel McVey, argued at trial that defendants Crane, Durco and Byron Jackson used asbestos in their products, should have known about its dangers and failed to take action to warn and protect people like Garvin who work around their products.
Garvin’s testimony and cross-examination during trial was presented to the jury by a video recording displayed on a large courtroom screen.
He is currently recovering from double pneumonia. His lawyers contended at trial that he has less than a year to live because of his cancer.
During closing arguments, Garvin’s attorney Dean asked the jury to award $1 million in actual damages for each year of life that Garvin was expected to miss because of his fatal disease. Garvin’s life expectancy would have been another 10 to 11 years, she argued.
Attorney Robert Meriwether of the Columbia firm Nelson Mullins and Bouch were the defendants’ attorneys during trial.
According to a complaint in 2012 action, some of Lloyd Garvin’s exposure to asbestos-containing equipment and products came in Wagener while working on his family farm, as well as while working as a heavy equipment operator in West Columbia and Aiken.
The trial took place in Richland County because the complaint, filed in 2012, alleged some of the exposure had a Richland County connection.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Motion in Limine Order in Quinton v. Toyota Addresses Crashworthiness in Modern Era


Earlier this week, I blogged about a recent trial of a Toyota Camry rollover case, which resulted in a defense verdict on June 21, 2013.  Prior to the trial, the Court issued a pre-trial Order in response to a motion in limine filed by Plaintiff's counsel.  The Order can be found here, and it is worthy of further commentary because it addresses crashworthiness in South Carolina.  It also references recent case law in which our courts have hinted at moving toward the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability (1998).  So...let's take a closer look.

To re-cap, the general facts relating to Quinton v. Toyota Motor Corporation can be found in this post.  Generally, the case involved a rollover of a 2009 Toyota Camry that resulted in the death of the driver (and sole occupant).  As stated in the Order, Plaintiff brought the case under the crashworthiness doctrine because she alleged the air bag failed to deploy properly during the accident. (Order at 2).  As a result, she claimed "enhanced injury" when the accident occurred, resulting in the death of the driver.  (Id).  Therefore, prior to trial, Plaintiff moved to exclude all evidence related to causation or fault. 

The Court began by summarizing prior South Carolina case authority on the crashworthiness doctrine.  Quoting from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Jiminez v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., 269 F.3d 439, 452 (4th Cir. 2001), the Court noted that "'liability [in a crashworthiness case] is imposed not for defects that cause collisions but for defects that cause injuries after collisions occur.'"  (Order at 2) (quoting id.).  In Jiminez, the district court excluded evidence of causation in a crashworthiness case.  The defendant had argued that because South Carolina adopted comparative negligence, the driver's alleged negligence was relevant to a damages calculation.  In concluding that the district court committed no error, the Jiminez Court noted that South Carolina had not addressed the issue of whether causation was relevant in a a crashworthiness analysis, and there was a split of authority on the issue.  Although the Court was not certain what the rule would be in South Carolina, it could not conclude that the the district court had erred in light of the fact that -- under the crashworthiness doctrine -- the cause of the original accident was not relevant to proving a claim for enhanced injury.  (Order at 2-3). 

Since Jiminez, the Court recognized that South Carolina courts still have not directly addressed this issue.  The Court offered to certify the question to the South Carolina Supreme Court, but the parties declined.  Therefore, the Court tried to ascertain how South Carolina courts would rule on it.  (Order at 3).

The Court reviewed that Branham v. Ford Motor Co., 390 S.C. 203, 220, 701 S.E.2d 5, 14 (2010) "embraced the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability (1998)."  (Order at 3).  Noting this trend, the Court cited to the comments in Restatement (Third) section 16 and the notion that a plaintiff's fault in causing an action that causes defect-related increased harm is relevant to apportioning responsibility.  (Order at 3-4) (emphasis added).  The Court noted that Jiminez did not hold that South Carolina would not admit evidence of cause in a crashworthiness analysis.  Rather, Jiminez only concluded there was no error by the district court under then-existing South Carolina law.  (Order at 4).

Since Jiminez, the Court noted that South Carolina has adopted comparative negligence, and its Supreme Court cited Restatement (Third) and its comments with approval in Branham.  (Order at 5).  The Court also noted that a majority of jurisdictions that considered the issue have held that comparative negligence is appropriately considered in a crashworthiness case.   Finally, the Court cited to language in Jiminez's dissent to support that a jury has to assess behavior of both the plaintiff and the defendant in a crashworthiness case to determine causation. The Court also agreed that the evidence was relevant to the analysis and conclusions of the experts accident reconstruction.  (Id.). 

The Order continues to show what this blog has maintained in numerous posts: Branham was a "game changer" in South Carolina products liability law.  Whether it leads to a definitive adoption of the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability (1998) by the Legislature remains to be seen, although our Legislature also made those overtures during the last round of tort reform.  We'll see...

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Verdict Survey: 2009 Rollover of Toyota Camry in Aiken County



On June 21, 2013, a jury returned a defense verdict in a rollover case tried in United States District Court, Aiken Division.  The details of the case are set forth below.

Capsule Summary: On June 21, 2013, a jury returned a defense verdict in a case involving a fatal rollover event in a 2009 Toyota Camry.  The driver's personal representative for the estate brought a wrongful death suit against multiple defendants, alleging claims for strict products liability, breach of warranty, and negligence.

Case Information: Alacia C. Quinton as PR for the Estate of April Lynn Quinton, Plaintiff, v. Toyota Motor Corporation; Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.; Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc., Toyoda Gosei North America Corporation, Defendants, C/A No.: 1:10-cv-02187-JMC.

Date of Verdict: June 21, 2013

Venue: United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Aiken Division

Judge: The Honorable J. Michelle Childs

Factual Background: On October 14, 2009, April Lynn Quinton was driving a rented 2009 Toyota Camry in Aiken, South Carolina.  She lost control of the vehicle while driving north into a left-hand curve.  The car exited the road, struck an embankment, and rolled over several times before coming to rest on its wheels.  Ms. Quinton was partially ejected and suffered severed head injuries from which she never recovered.  She died on October 23, 2009.

Allegations and Procedure: Plaintiff filed a wrongful death and survival action against Defendants in the Aiken County Court of Common Pleas.  In the Complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims for strict products liability, breach of warranty, and negligence.  Plaintiff alleged the vehicle's roof structure and seat belt restraint system were defective generally.  Plaintiff also alleged that the supplemental restraint system, which involved certain airbag technology, was defectively designed.   More specifically, the 2009 Toyota Camry's supplemental restraint system included a curtain shield airbag ("CSA").  This system deploys above the vehicle's doors to protect a passenger's head from side impacts.  Plaintiff alleged that the vehicle lacked a rollover-activated curtain shield airbag ("RCSA").  This system, which was not included in the 2009 vehicle, has a rollover sensor that deploys the curtain shield airbags when it senses the car is rolling over.

Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court of the District of South Carolina, Aiken Division.  Defendants answered the Complaint and later filed a motion for summary judgment.  The Court granted the motion with regard to Plaintiff's claims relating to a defective roof and defective seat belt restraint system.  However, it denied summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim of a defectively designed supplemental restraint system.

At trial, the primary liability theory remaining and asserted by Plaintiff was the claim that the driver's side airbag failed to fully deploy.  Plaintiff alleged this failure was the result of a hole in the airbag during manufacture (i.e., manufacturing defect).  Defendants demonstrated that the hole found in the airbag post-accident was created during the severe four-roll rollover event as the bag was constrained and over-pressurized.  In addition, the defendants presented evidence of the Quality Assurance/Quality Control procedures followed a the non-party manufacturers. 

Experts: Plaintiff presented the following experts: Ron Kirk (accident reconstruction), Robert Bowser (airbag design), Richard Edwards (materials science), and Joe Burton (biomechanics).  Defendants presented the following experts: Geoff Germane (accident reconstruction), Bob Gratzinger (roof structure), Mike Klima (airbag design), Karen Balavich (airbag/materials science) and Catherine Corrigan (biomechanics).

Alleged Damages: Plaintiff asked for $5 million.

Result: After four hours of deliberation, the jury returned their verdict in favor of the defendants.

Miscellaneous: This case also involved some pre-trial motions, one of which was a motion in limine by Plaintiff to exclude all evidence related to accident causation or fault.  I will try to post the Court's Order on that motion later in the week, as it provides some interesting insight into our state's movement toward Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability (1998) and crashworthiness.  Also, special thanks to my friends and former colleagues, Dick Willis and Angela Strickland, for calling this case to my attention.  Dick and Angela were on the defense trial team for this case.  They were also kind enough to present the case at our products liability breakout session at the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys Association Summer Meeting a couple of weeks ago.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

SCDTAA Panel on Expert Retention at Summer Meeting

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel at the annual summer meeting of the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys Association  ("SCDTAA").  For the last couple of years, I have served as a Co-Chair of the organization's Products Liability Substantive Law Committee, and this role has afforded me the opportunity to become more involved in SCDTAA.  Although I was only able to go up for the day, the meeting occurred from July 25 to July 27, 2013 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.  (This was my first time going to the Grove Park Inn...I will definitely go back, as it is a beautiful setting).

I was originally contacted earlier this year about serving on this panel.  The idea was to get three or four different lawyers who handle different types of cases, and bring the perspectives of those practice areas to a discussion about best practices when dealing with experts.  After some discussion, I was designated to speak on products liability on the panel, Blanton O'Neal handled the perspective from construction litigation, and Trey Suggs handled medical malpractice.  Ron Wray moderated the panel, and our time lot was 11:15 a.m. to noon on Friday.

It was a nice discussion, and we had a good crowd of probably forty to fifty lawyers in attendance.  Generally, we spoke about issues relating to hiring national versus local experts, "professional" experts versus practicing specialists, expert preparation, and a variety of other issues that every practitioner has to address when dealing with experts.  From the products liability perspective, I discussed how experts have become more important in this practice area in the last few years in light of Watson v. Ford Motor Co., Graves v. CAS Medical Systems, Inc., and our courts' definitive decision to require proof of alternative design in design defect cases (which is -- in my opinion -- difficult to prove without engaging an expert).  If you follow this blog, you are familiar with these issues and case law, as I have blogged extensively about them over the last few years.

I always enjoy speaking, and the SCDTAA is a great organization if you do defense work in South Carolina.  If you have any interest in becoming more involved in SCDTAA generally or the Products Liability Substantive Law Committee, I would be happy to discuss the organization with you.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just Returned from the DRI Products Liability Steering Committee Fly-In Meeting



I just returned from the yearly "fly-in" meeting of the DRI Products Liability Steering Committee.  This is an annual meeting in June where members of the committee get together to discuss and plan the next year's Products Liability Conference.  It is a productive meeting, and it is also a chance to get together with friends on the committee and catch up in between conferences. 

Go ahead and mark your calendar for the 2014 DRI Products Liability Conference, which is scheduled for April 9-11, 2014 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona.  There are going to be a few format changes for the 2014 conference.  The most significant change (for me) is that the Specialized Litigation Group ("SLG") that I chair -- Agricultural, Construction, Mining and Industrial Equipment -- is scheduled to do a one-hour "main stage" presentation.  In the past, the SLGs have done breakout sessions.  This year, certain SLGs are being asked to provide a main stage presentation, and ACMIE is one of them.  I need to submit our topic by July 9, so if you have any ideas and care to share them, let me hear from you!

We also discussed  other topics for the conference, general themes, and membership matters.  We also had an interesting discussion on future venues and how to respond to participant feedback in terms of programming, the preferred month for the conference (as April seems to run into spring break for many people), venue, etc.  It was a productive meeting, and now that I have been involved with this group for four or five years, I have made some good friends and enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with them. 

Unfortunately, my travel home was brutal.  Storms in Chicago, and a missed connection in Charlotte led to a 1:00 a.m. arrival, as opposed to the planned 9:30 p.m. arrival.  But, it is always good to get home.

If you have any interest in DRI, please let me know, as I would be happy to assist with getting you involved. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Verdict Survey: Tankless Water Heaters in Dorchester County

The May 2013 issue of Verdict Search included a South Carolina products liability case tried in Dorchester County.  The details of the case are set forth below.

Capsule Summary:   On March 1, 2013, a Dorchester County jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $750,000 in a case involving tankless water heaters purchased by the plaintiff plumbing company.  Plaintiff alleged the tankless water heaters it purchased failed once temperatures began to drop in the winter, causing water pipes in the homes in which they were installed to burst. 
 
Case Information: Amo, LLC v. Eccotemp Systems, LLC, Greenwave Hot Water Heaters, LLC/Eccotemp Systems, LLC v. Hurricane Construction, Inc., C/A No. 2010-CP-18-01920, Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas.
 
Date of Verdict:  March 1, 2013
 
 
 
Factual Background:  In 2008, Plaintiff Amo, LLC (“Amo”) (a plumbing company) purchased 75 tankless water heaters and installed them in various homes.  Amo purchased the units from Eccotemp Systems, LLC (“Eccotemp”).  The water heaters were supposed to produce warm water on demand and conserve energy.  They were also allegedly 30 to 40 percent less expensive than the price of competitor products that were similar.  Amo paid $498 per unit.  In the winter of 2008, and as temperatures began to fall, the units Amo purchased began to fail and caused water pipes in the homes in which they were installed to burst. 
 
Allegations and Procedure: Amo sued Eccotemp and claimed Eccotemp manufactured and sold a defective product.  Amo alleged causes of action for breach of warranty, breach of contract, and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.  Amo also named the retailer that sold the water heaters, but the retailer was dismissed later by Plaintiff’s counsel.  Eccotemp then impleaded Hurricane Construction, Inc. (the homebuilder) for whom Amo installed the units, but Hurricane was dismissed from the case prior to trial.
 
At trial, Amo's counsel argued Eccotemp’s products included broken thermostats, which caused water pipes to freeze.  The thermostats also caused the units to malfunction and not heat water inside the units if temperatures dropped below 37 degrees fahrenheit.   There was testimony at trial that 70 percent of units sold to Amo by Eccotemp failed.  Eccotemp replaced 40 of the units, and 14 of them froze again.  Amo's counsel argued that several homeowners experienced as many as three Eccotemp water heater failures in their homes during the cold months.  When Amo replaced the Eccotemp units with a competitor’s units, those units did not fail.  Amo introduced evidence of a pattern of behavior by Eccotemp, including evidence that homeowners in several states had similar problems with the water heaters.
 
Eccotemp argued that the products' failure was not the result of a product defect.  Instead, it argued Amo's employees installed the units in the homes incorrectly.  Eccotemp also claimed the homeowners contributed to failure of the units and frozen water pipes by not allowing their pipes to drip during cold weather.
 
Experts: Amo's expert was Gary Roland, a plumber in Lexington, South Carolina.  Defendant’s expert was Michael Richmond, a plumber in Charleston, South Carolina. 
 
Alleged Damages:  Amo's counsel sought a recovery of $158,000, as well as attorney’s fees and costs.  Amo's counsel requested that the damages be trebled pursuant to the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.  Defendant’s counsel disputed these damages.
 
Result: The jury returned a Plaintiff’s verdict, in favor of Amo and determined the damages for breach of warranty, breach of contract, and unfair trade practices totaled $750,000.  The jury apportioned $125,000 to breach of warranty, $158,000 to breach of contract, and $474,000 to the unfair trade practices claim.
 
Miscellaneous:  The last demand in the case was $85,000.  The last offer was $42,500, which the write-up indicates was withdrawn.  After the verdict, Eccotemp filed a motion for a mistrial, which was denied.  Eccotemp filed a Notice of Appeal with the South Carolina Court of Appeals and also filed for United States Bankruptcy Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The write-up indicates the information contained therein was provided by Plaintiff’s counsel, and none of the Defendants’ counsel responded to inquiries.
 
Thanks to the May 2013, Volume 12, Issue 5 of Verdict Search for this information.  I also frequently use their verdict search engine, www.verdictsearch.com.

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