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Results 2011

DANIEL LOPEZ ET AL vs. COOPER TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY
Summary Judgment in Favor of Defendant June 2011
Yoka & Smith

In June of 2011, Yoka & Smith obtained a summary judgment on this multi-party personal injury case arising from a one-vehicle automobile accident that took place in Baja California, Mexico. According to plaintiffs' complaint, the accident occurred due to the alleged disablement of a defective tire allegedly manufactured by Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. Much of the manufacturing information on the allegedly defective tire was destroyed from the subject accident. However, after an analysis by Cooper Tire's experts, Yoka & Smith was able to show that the alleged tire in fact was not manufactured, designed or distributed by Cooper Tire. The court therefore granted Cooper Tire's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the plaintiffs were unable to establish the necessary elements to support a finding of liability against Cooper Tire.

JOANNE DIEHL vs. ICON HEALTH & FITNESS, INC
Jury Trial June 27, 2011
Stephen H. Smith; Aaron G. Capps

Stephen Smith and Aaron G. Capps obtained a defense verdict on behalf ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., in a product liability and breach of implied warranty action stemming from a fall on a treadmill.

On August 28, 2008, plaintiff Joanne Diehl, a 60-year-old professor at the University of California, Davis, fell in her home while walking on a treadmill designed and manufactured by defendant ICON. Plaintiff claimed that the treadmill suddenly increased in speed and that her fall was the result of this unexpected acceleration. Plaintiff claimed that the acceleration was due to a defect in the design of the treadmill. Plaintiff sustained a comminuted left humeral head fracture requiring a left shoulder hemiarthroplasty with a biceps tenodesis procedure (partial joint replacement). Plaintiff has a permanent limitation of her left arm range of motion. At trial, Ms. Diehl requested $890,000 in damages.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging product liability, negligence and breach of implied warranty claims against ICON. Plaintiff could find no evidence of a failure in the treadmill, but claimed that the treadmill was susceptible to intermittent failure due to some type of defect in the treadmill's software. However, plaintiff's attempt to compel disclosure of ICON's proprietary software was denied by the court, which found such software to be a trade secret and that plaintiff had not made an adequate showing to warrant disclosure of that trade secret.

In defense, Mr. Smith and Mr. Capps contested liability contending that the acceleration did not happen based upon the absence of either any physical evidence of damage to the treadmill and its components or any scientifically sound explanation for the event. They also contended that plaintiff's injuries were inconsistent with a fall from the treadmill accelerating. Specifically, an analysis of plaintiff's injuries demonstrated that, if the treadmill had accelerated, plaintiff would have sustained a shoulder separation or dislocation, rather than the claimed shoulder fracture and that plaintiff would have sustained friction burn injuries from contact with the treadmill's belt.

Rather than a defect in the treadmill, Mr. Smith and Mr. Capps contended that plaintiff's fall was caused by a balance problem due to side effects from her prescribed medication. Plaintiff was diagnosed after the accident by her treating physicians as suffering from drug-induced Parkinsonism. The medical experts agreed that plaintiff suffered from drug-induced Parkinsonism, with plaintiff contending that the symptoms were minor and defendant contending that the symptoms were severe and caused the fall.

Prior to trial Mr. Smith and Mr. Capps were successful on a number of motions in limine, including the limitation of testimony of one of Ms. Diehl's proposed liability experts and, as a result, plaintiff ultimately did not call that expert to testify at trial. In the face of a similar motion concerning plaintiff's other liability expert, plaintiff withdrew that expert as well.

The case was tried in Alameda County in Oakland before the Honorable Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. The trial lasted for two weeks. During the pendency of the trial, plaintiff dismissed her negligence cause of action.

After approximately an hour of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of ICON on the remaining causes of action for product liability and breach of implied warranty.

ALEX NOVAK vs. CONTINENTAL TIRE NORTH AMERICA, INC.
Jury Trial May 10, 2011
Anthony F. Latiolait; Jeffrey J. Gordon

Anthony Latiolait and Jeffrey Gordon obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Continental Tire North America, Inc. ,(now known as Continental Tire the Americas, LLC) in a product liability and negligence action stemming from a single vehicle accident.

On September 12, 2005, a 1988 Chevrolet Van, driven by Milagros Ibarra, collided with a utility pole in the city of Fremont, California. The plaintiff, Alex Novak, age 81, was a passenger in the van at the time of the accident. Prior to the accident the van experienced a partial tread separation and blowout of the right rear tire. The right rear tire was manufactured by Continental in 1993.

Mr. Novak filed product liability and negligence claims against Continental. Plaintiff claimed that the 12-year-old tire had failed due to "aging" and that Continental should have warned of alleged dangers associated tire aging. Plaintiff further claimed that the tire's failure was the cause of the van's loss of control and resulting collision.

As a result of the accident, Mr. Novak sustained multiple comminuted fractures to his femurs, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He was hospitalized for six months following the accident and claimed that these injuries rendered him wheelchair-bound for the remainder of his life. At trial, Mr. Novak requested $1.9 million in damages.

Prior to trial Mr. Latiolait and Mr. Gordon were successful on a number of motions in limine, including the exclusion of two of Mr. Novak's proposed liability experts.

In defense, Mr. Latiolait and Mr. Gordon contested liability contending that the tire failed due to a prior road hazard injury and that all of its warnings were appropriate. They also contended that Ms. Ibarra's negligent driving was the cause of the collision and Mr. Novak's damages.

The case was tried in Alameda County in Oakland before the Honorable Winifred Smith. The trial lasted for four weeks. During the pendency of the trial, Mr. Latiolait and Mr. Gordon obtained a nonsuit as to Mr. Novak's strict liability cause of action.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Continental on the remaining failure to warn claim. The jury also found that the driver's negligence was the sole cause of the accident.

MI RYONG SONG vs. SUK K. LEE
Jury Trial July 2011
Christopher E. Faenza; Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Christopher Faenza and Sean Kim obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Suk Ki Lee in a breach of contract lawsuit, in which plaintiff sought over $1.2 million in damages.

Plaintiff, Mi Ryong Song, claimed that Suk Ki Lee improperly and unlawfully gave or disclosed the terms of a confidential settlement agreement to George Oh. Later, George Oh allegedly instituted a will contest concerning the estate of his father, James Oh. Plaintiff alleged that the inflammatory allegations that formed the grounds upon which the will contest was based were derived in material part from George Oh's knowledge and reading of the confidential settlement agreement.

James Oh passed away in March of 2008. James Oh was the father of George Oh and Linda Oh. At the time of his death, James Oh was married to Mi Ryong Song.

Plaintiff claimed that in July of 2008, George Oh and Linda Oh instituted a will contest, wherein they contested the validity of a will dated September 20, 2000, which left the entirety of James Oh's estate to Mi Ryong Song. Later, in February of 2009, during the pendency of the will contest, the confidential settlement agreement was produced in response to discovery. In April of 2009, there was a meeting between Suk Ki Lee, Mi Ryong Song, and Eugene Kim. At that meeting, defendant, Suk Ki Lee, allegedly told plaintiff that he did, in fact, give the confidential settlement agreement to George Oh.

Plaintiff, Mi Ryong Song, asserted claims for breach of contract, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, and punitive damages.

In defense, Mr. Faenza and Mr. Kim contested liability contending that Mr. Lee never gave nor disclosed the confidential settlement agreement to George Oh, let alone any person. They also contended that during the April 2009 meeting, there was no mention of an unlawful disclosure of a confidential settlement agreement. Rather, at the April 2009 meeting, Mi Ryong Song and Mr. Lee discussed a dispute concerning ownership of Super Center Concepts stocks. The ownership dispute of Super Center Concepts stocks relates to the ownership of Superior Grocers. Superior Grocers is one of the largest independently-owned chain of grocery stores in Southern California.

During trial, plaintiff's "independent witness" Eugene Kim admitted that at the April 2009 meeting, the three only discussed the ownership dispute of Super Center Concepts. In addition, Eugene Kim admitted that he does not know about the background of the settlement agreement and the lawsuit for which it was settled.

Moreover, Mr. Faenza and Mr. Kim contended that plaintiff, Mi Ryong Song, filed the instant lawsuit in a coordinated attempt to intimidate and harass defendant, Suk K. Lee. Following the April 2009 meeting, plaintiff filed three lawsuits from the end of June 2009 through mid July 2009. Two of the lawsuits were filed against Mr. Lee.

On the first day of trial, plaintiff dismissed her causes of action for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage. Plaintiff proceeded to trial on her breach of contract claim.

This case was tried in Los Angeles County, in Los Angeles, before the Honorable Mark Mooney. The trial lasted for one week.

After approximately two hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Lee on the remaining cause of action for breach of contract.

VILLANUEVA vs. COOPER TIRE & RUBBER CO.
Summary Judgment in Favor of Defendant
Kathy Schmeckpeper

Kathy Schmeckpeper obtained summary judgment in favor of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company in Villaneuva vs. Cooper Tire, a case that involved a single-vehicle rollover following a tire tread separation. The driver, Maria Villanueva, sustained injuries in the accident leaving her a quadriplegic. Plaintiffs alleged the Cooper-made tire failed due to manufacturing and design defects, and that the tire failure caused the accident. Cooper Tire established there was a nonrepairable puncture in the tire and that the tire should have been removed from service before the accident. In the motion it was shown that the loss of air pressure in the tire from the puncture resulted in a classic "Run Flat/Run Soft" tire failure. Cooper Tire further contended, and the court found, that plaintiffs failed to establish any defect in the tire, that any supposed defect in the tire proximately caused plaintiffs' injuries or that Cooper Tire had failed to provide appropriate warnings for the tire.

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