Home Case Results Rodriguez v. Suzuki Motor Corp. and American Suzuki Corp.

Product Liability / Auto / Rollover / Quadriplegia

10/31/1997 - $36,900,000

Rodriguez v. Suzuki Motor Corp. and American Suzuki Corp.; Circuit Court of St. Louis, Missouri. Kathryn Rodriguez, 32 years old at the time of this verdict, is a quadriplegic who was paralyzed while riding as a passenger in a Suzuki Samurai that rolled over on February 11, 1990. The case involved the propensity of the Suzuki Samurai to rollover due to an unstable and defective vehicle design. The jury awarded $25 million in compensatory damages and $11.9 million in punitive damages against Suzuki. Testimony and documents at trial showed that Suzuki developed a “crisis plan” to deal with the Samurai rollover problem more than three months before the first Samurai was sold in the United States. Suzuki documents further showed that it knew the Samurai, because of its narrow wheelbase, was “bound to turn over.” General Motors evaluated a Samurai-type vehicle in the early 1980s and rejected the idea of importing it into the United States because the vehicle would have “unacceptable rollover tendencies.” After G.M. refused to import and market the Suzuki vehicle, Suzuki decided to sell the vehicle itself in the United States without making the significant engineering changes recommended by G.M. More than 240 cases have been filed against Suzuki, and more than 8,200 people have been injured and 213 killed in Samurai rollover accidents since Suzuki started selling the vehicle in the U.S. This case was first tried to a verdict of $90 million in July of 1995. The first jury’s verdict was reversed because of the exclusion of evidence that the driver had consumed some wine at a winery before the accident. On retrial, the Court admitted evidence of wine consumption. The second jury’s verdict of $36,900,000 was also appealed by Suzuki. The case was settled by Suzuki after an appeal before a third trial.

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