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Lancaster County, Nebraska

This case involved a single-car, rollover motor vehicle accident.

The female plaintiff, a restrained passenger, broke her neck and as a result is a quadriplegic. The plaintiff contended that the defendant driver was responsible for the collision and that the defendant General Motors was responsible as well, since the vehicle was not crashworthy. The plaintiff maintained that the roof was weak and could not sustain a rollover collision. The defendant driver admitted liability for the occurrence of the accident, but denied liability for the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. General Motors asserted that the violence of the rollover would have caused roof collapse in any vehicle.

The plaintiff was a 30-year-old, 5’6" bartender and mother of three children. She was a restrained passenger in a ________ Chevrolet S10 Blazer driven by the defendant driver, Kenneth Long. Defendant Long was a 65-year-old, 6’1" man who was giving the plaintiff a ride home at 11:40 P.M. from the bar where the plaintiff was employed. Defendant Long lost control of the vehicle. It is estimated that the vehicle was traveling at speeds of between 61 and 76 mph when the rollover occurred. The vehicle rolled over at least four times, half of the rollovers taking place off of the road. Both the driver and the plaintiff were wearing three point restraints. The defendant driver suffered no serious injuries from the incident. However, the plaintiff broke her neck and was diagnosed as an incomplete C6 quadriplegic. She has no sensation from the nipple line down. She is able to move her arms and has some limited use of her hands.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant driver was responsible for the rollover accident. Additionally the plaintiff asserted that General Motors was responsible for the plaintiff’s enhanced C6 spinal cord injuries. The injury resulted from a weakened roof in the vehicle which significantly increased the likelihood that the occupants in the vehicle would sustain catastrophic neck injuries in the event of a rollover collision. The plaintiff further contended that General Motors had actively misled the government, its competitors and its customers by its claims over the past thirty years that "roof strength does not matter" in relation to injury prevention during a rollover accident.

The plaintiff incurred medical expenses of $________ with anticipated future medical expenses of $________. The plaintiff asserted a lost wage claim of $________ and a future loss of earnings capacity of $________ to $________ for the remainder of her work life.

Defendant Long, the driver of the vehicle, admitted sole liability for the happening of the accident. Defendant Long, however, contended that he was not responsible for the spinal injuries and paralysis suffered by the plaintiff. Defendant Long asserted that the enhanced spinal injuries were due to the structural weakness of the roof on the vehicle which was the responsibility of defendant General Motors.

The defendant General Motors contended that the defendant driver was the sole cause of the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries.

Both the plaintiff and the defendant driver had been drinking and defendant Long was convicted of driving under the influence.

General Motors alleged that only 1% of all rollover accidents include four or more rolls. Further, defendant General Motors contended that the velocity of this high speed rollover was so great that no vehicle in existence could have significantly lessened the risk of catastrophic injury. It further contended that the S10 Blazer met and exceeded all federal vehicle safety standards in existence in ________ and the present day. Defendant General Motors contended that rollover accidents can never be eliminated and despite the strength of the roof, the plaintiff’s injuries in this instance would not have been averted due to the other defendant’s negligence.

The trial lasted four weeks and the jury deliberated over one week before reaching its verdict. The jury awarded the plaintiff $________ jointly and severally against both defendants. Prior to trial, the plaintiff had demanded $________ from General Motors and General Motors had offered $________. Defendant Long had offered the sum of $________ prior to trial.

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