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Hillsborough County, Florida

The plaintiff alleged, in this product liability claim, that the defendant Griffin, Inc. manufactured an armored van with a design defect. Specifically the plaintiff claimed a hollow metal bar, designed to restrain cargo in the back of the van, was not properly tested by the defendant and failed during a rear end collision. The defendant denied the van was defective and maintained the bar failure was caused by the extreme forces placed on the restraining bar during the accident.

The plaintiff, age 56 at trial, was employed as a guard for an armored transport company. On October 31, ________, he was riding in the cargo hold of an armored cash van manufactured by the defendant. A hollow metal bar located behind the plaintiff’s seat was designed to restrain cargo placed in the back of the van in the event of an accident. The plaintiff contended that expected cargo for the van included some 30 boxes of coins weighing about ________ pounds, which was being carried that day, as well as bags of currency.

The armored van struck the back of a tanker truck at a speed of approximately 25 mph in a heavy fog. On impact, the cargo broke through the metal restraining bar and tore the plaintiff’s seat partially off its pedestal. Evidence showed that the impact forced the seatback into the plaintiff’s head, causing a cervical vertebra fracture.

The plaintiff testified he was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident, but the belt exploded during the crash. The plaintiff further asserted that, had the belt held, he would not have survived the accident because his body would have been crushed between the seat and the belt as the coin impacted the back of the seat.

The plaintiff claimed the defendant auto manufacturer failed to test the design of the cargo restraining bar and did not submit the design for an engineering review prior to marketing it. The plaintiff’s expert engineer testified the coins carried in the back of the armored van could become missiles targeting the back of the guard’s seat and that the coins created up to ________ pounds of force during even a relatively low-speed impact. The plaintiff contended that several alternative designs were available, but the most economical and feasible of these designs was a full metal barrier with a sliding door. The plaintiff offered crash tests showing the alternative design versus the design of the hollow bar as it existed in the vehicle at the time of the accident. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the alternative sliding door barrier could have been installed by the defendant at a cost of $________ per vehicle.

The plaintiff has been left with incomplete quadriplegia and appeared at trial in a wheelchair. He is paralyzed from the sternum down with some arm movement. The plaintiff’s experts testified that the plaintiff is totally permanently disabled and requires daily living assistance. The plaintiff’s life-care expert estimated the plaintiff’s future medical and living needs will range from $5 to $8.5 million.

The defendant’s experts opined that no restraining bar could have withstood the force of the crash, given the improper method that the coins had been stacked in the back of the van. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident and that a belt would have lessened the severity of his injuries.

The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________.

The award included $16 million in future pain and suffering; $6 million in past pain and suffering; $8 million in future economic damages; $________ in past economic damages and $3 million to the estate of the plaintiff’s wife for her loss of consortium.

Posttrial motions are pending.

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