Auto Accident Verdict in Faulty Transmission Case

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A Georgia woman who filed a product liability lawsuit alleging an auto accident as the result of a a transmission defect in her Ford Explorer led to her paralysis was awarded $40 million in damages by a Georgia jury. The award includes $30 million in punitive damages, $9 million in compensatory damages to her and $1 million to her husband.

Under Maryland law, there would be no punitive damages in this case because punitive damages are not available in tort cases unless there is actual malice. To find actual malice, there must be "actual malice is "evil motive, intent to injure, ill will or fraud." Setting the bar even higher for punitive damages claims, a lawsuit alleging actual malice increases the burden of proof to "clear and convincing evidence" instead of the usual preponderance of the evidence.  Tough standard.  Arguably, the standard should be different in drunk driving cases.  

In my opinion, punitive damages are necessary in Maryland in cases like this one when the jury finds the corporation showed no regard for the safety of the consumer and to discourage drunk driving.  I think it would safe lives in Maryland. But this is a settled issue in Maryland: there are no punitive damages in car accident cases except in unique cases (road rage is the perfect example).

You can find the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on this accident case here.
One thing to keep in mind in road rage cases in Maryland: although the other party's insurance company will deny liability, there is likely uninsured motorist coverage to pay for any injuries and - potentially - punitive damages that would have been awarded against the other driver. 

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