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Silvestri v. GMC

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

September 27, 2001, Argued ; November 14, 2001, Decided

No. 00-2523

Opinion

 [*585]  NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge:

Mark Silvestri filed this products liability action against General Motors Corporation, alleging that the airbag in a 1995 Chevrolet Monte Carlo he was driving did not deploy as warranted when he crashed into a utility pole and that, as a result, his injuries from the accident were enhanced. Because Silvestri failed, before the vehicle was repaired, to give General Motors notice of his claim and an opportunity to inspect [**2]  the vehicle -- which the district court concluded was "the sole piece of evidence in this case" -- the court dismissed Silvestri's action, finding dismissal to be the appropriate sanction for the spoliation of evidence in this case. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

 [*586]  I

On November 5, 1994, Mark Silvestri was involved in a single vehicle crash in Preble, New York. Driving his landlady's Chevrolet automobile while intoxicated and at an excessive rate of speed, Silvestri lost control of the vehicle on a curve and slid off the road. The vehicle crashed through a split-rail fence and, as it was spinning, the front of the vehicle obliquely struck a utility pole. The vehicle rotated around the pole and continued past it, coming to rest in the front yard of a residence. During the accident, the airbag in the Chevrolet did not deploy. Although it appears that Silvestri was wearing his seatbelt, he sustained severe facial lacerations and bone fractures, permanently disfiguring his face. He contends that, had the airbag deployed, he would not have sustained these disfiguring injuries.

While Silvestri was in the hospital, his parents retained attorney William G. Moench to protect Silvestri's [**3]  legal interests, both with respect to Silvestri's ticket for driving while intoxicated and his potential civil action against General Motors. When Moench later contacted Silvestri, Silvestri requested that Moench continue to represent him until his period of incapacitation ended and he was able to meet with Moench in person. Later, Silvestri discharged Moench, perhaps over a dispute with Moench about the advancement of litigation costs, which then had grown to $ 3000, and retained present counsel.

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271 F.3d 583 *; 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 24413 **; 51 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 694

MARK N. SILVESTRI, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1]  Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. William M. Nickerson, District Judge. (CA-97-4214-WMN).

Silvestri v. GM Corp., 210 F.3d 240, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 7256 (4th Cir. Md. 2000) 

Disposition: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS

measurement, inspection, crush, spoliation, airbag, district court, deploy, notify, steering wheel, module, sanctions, injuries, struck, spoliation of evidence, utility pole, anticipation, prejudiced, fence, speed, judicial process, inherent power, diagnostic, preserved, lawsuit, notice, front, appropriate sanction, reconstruction, destruction, deposition

Civil Procedure, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Transportation Law, Bridges & Roads, Street Cleaning, Evidence, Relevance, Preservation of Relevant Evidence, Spoliation