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Supreme Court of Georgia
March 28, 2008, Decided
S07A1365. S07X1389. S07A1367. S07X1368.
[*398] [**348] Melton, Justice.
These multiple appeals arise from a jury verdict in favor of Artumus Gibson, as the surviving spouse and Administrator of his wife's estate (hereinafter collectively “Gibson”), against William Burns, Ford Motor Company (“Ford”), and Draw-Tite, Inc. (“Draw-Tite”), in connection with a car accident that resulted in his wife's death. In Case No. S07A1365, Ford challenges the trial court's order requiring Ford to produce certain crash-test documents during discovery and the subsequent sanctions imposed by the trial court in connection with Ford's failure to produce these documents; the trial court's [*399] conclusion that Gibson's claims survived Georgia's statute of repose (OCGA § 51-1-11); the jury's verdict on Gibson's failure-to-warn claim; and the trial court's charge on proximate cause. In Case No. S07A1367, Draw-Tite contends that the trial court erred in ruling that OCGA § 24-9-67.1 (admissibility of scientific expert opinion testimony in civil actions) was unconstitutional as [***2] applied in this case; improperly applied the “enhanced injury” doctrine at trial; erred in denying Draw-Tite's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict; and improperly allowed the rehabilitation of biased jurors. In cross-appeals S07X1368 and S07X1389, Gibson appeals the trial court's grant of partial summary judgment to Draw-Tite on Gibson's design-defect and punitive damages claims. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in Case No. S07A1365, affirm in part and vacate in part in Case No. S07A1367, and dismiss cross-appeals S07X1368 and S07X1389.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the record reveals that, on February 12, 1999, Burns drove a Toyota truck into the back of a 1985 Mercury Marquis [**349] being driven by Anne Marie Gibson. At the time of the accident, Burns was driving 50 to 60 miles per hour, and Ms. Gibson's car, preparing to make a left turn, was at a complete stop. The collision forced Ms. Gibson's car into oncoming traffic, where it was hit by another truck. A trailer hitch manufactured by Draw-Tite was attached to the rear of Ms. Gibson's car by two bolts, and the sharp ends of the two bolts were facing the fuel tank located behind the [***3] rear axle of the car. The force of the impact from the collisions thrust the two bolts through the fuel tank of Ms. Gibson's car, and the doors of the car jammed shut during the collisions. A post-collision fire erupted, and the fuel tank of Ms. Gibson's car exploded. Ms. Gibson's seat back collapsed, pulling her head into the flames that had erupted in the back seat of her car. Rescuers eventually unjammed Ms. Gibson's car door and retrieved her from the vehicle, but she died at the scene due to her exposure to the fire and from smoke inhalation.
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283 Ga. 398 *; 659 S.E.2d 346 **; 2008 Ga. LEXIS 296 ***; 2008 Fulton County D. Rep. 1087; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P17,965
FORD MOTOR COMPANY v. GIBSON et al. DRAW-TITE, INC. v. GIBSON et al. GIBSON et al. v. DRAW-TITE, INC. GIBSON et al. v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY.
Subsequent History: Reconsideration denied April 11, 2008.
Prior History: OCGA § 24-9-67.1; constitutional question. Clarke State Court. Before Judge Lawrence.
Ford Motor Co. v. Gibson, 2005 Ga. LEXIS 753 (Ga., Oct. 13, 2005)
Disposition: [***1] Judgment affirmed in Case No. S07A1365. Judgment affirmed in part and vacated in part in Case No. S07A1367. Case Nos. S07X1368 and S07X1389 dismissed.
trial court, documents, warn, crash, hitch, fuel tank, tests, seat, rear, fuel system, collisions, discovery, proximate cause, enhanced, bolts, pretrial conference, expert testimony, design defect, car-to-car, damages, jurors, door
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Privileged Communications, Work Product Doctrine, Scope of Protection, Sanctions, Misconduct & Unethical Behavior, Discourtesies, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Default & Default Judgments, Default Judgments, Entry of Default Judgments, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Procedural Matters, Preliminary Questions, Witness Qualifications, Testimony, Expert Witnesses, Qualifications, Governments, Legislation, Effect & Operation, Retrospective Operation, Torts, Multiple Defendants, Alternative Liability, Joint & Several Liability