Product Liability -- 2018

General Motors LLC v. Bavlsik   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Opposing damages-only retrial after impermissible compromise verdict

This case involves the standards a court must apply to require a new trial when the previous trial ended in a "compromise verdict." Compromise verdicts arise when the jury cannot agree on the defendant's liability, but out of sympathy for the plaintiff or antipathy for the defendant the jury awards the plaintiff a small monetary damages award. That situation arose in this case, where a motorist ran a stop sign and was rendered a quadriplegic in the ensuing car accident. The motorist sued General Motors, alleging car defects that contributed to the motorist's injuries. The jury awarded the motorist a very small damages award, which clearly indicated that the jury was split on the question of GM's liability for the driver's injuries but agreed to "compromise" by finding GM liable but awarding the plaintiff a low monetary award.

After the verdict, the court ordered a new trial, but only on the question of damages. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. GM petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. The NAM filed a coalition amicus brief in support of GM. In it, the NAM argued that damages-only retrials in circumstances such as this violate the constitutional rights of manufacturers to fair trials. We also asked the Supreme Court to clarify the narrow set of circumstances under which damages-only retrials are permissible.

On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court denied certiorari.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (April 2, 2018)


© 2019 National Association of Manufacturers