January 24, 1996: Conkle v. Gen. Motors Corp.

Defects in Cars - Products Liability Litigation

January 24, 1996: Conkle v. Gen. Motors Corp.
Civil Action SC 92 CV 0730 (Muscogee Co., Ga. St. Ct.), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, remanded by 226 Ga. App. 34, 486 S.E.2d 180 (1997)

In the Conkle wreck, the plaintiff was seated in the passenger seat of a General Motors sedan. The passenger door was equipped with a "Type III" door latch. The door latch failed when the vehicle ran off the road and hit a culvert. The plaintiff died as a result of injuries he sustained when his door popped open and he was ejected from the vehicle. In the related product liability action against General Motors, the court ordered the auto manufacturer to comply with discovery by producing a number of documents. General Motors responded by asserting frivolous objections and withholding responsive documents. After General Motors failed for over a year to adequately comply with the court's order, the court sanctioned General Motors for discovery abuse by entering default. In this sanctions order, the court addressed the disingenuousness of General Motors' varied excuses for noncompliance: "General Motors' assertion of substantial compliance, misunderstanding and other explanations are inadequate in light of the magnitude of legal expertise and other resources it has applied to the discovery process in this case." According to the court, "application of a fine or taxing of other costs" would not be an "adequate remedy for this situation." The court saw no "viable alternative" to striking General Motors' answer and entering default on liability.

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