Alex Novak vs. Continental Tire North America, Inc.
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.