October 8, 1998: Bampoe-Parry v. Gen. Motors Corp.

Civil Action No. 98VS0138297J & 98VS0138298J (Fulton Co., Ga. St. Ct.)

In the Bampoe-Parry wreck, the plaintiffs' Chevrolet Chevette exploded when the vehicle was hit in a foreseeable rear impact collision. The driver of the Chevette suffered severe burns and died two weeks after the wreck solely from the burn and smoke inhalation injuries he sustained when the rear, bumper tank of the Chevette exploded upon impact. In the subsequent product liability suit, General Motors refused to produce discoverable documents and failed to comply with the court's discovery orders. In a detailed, eight-page order, the court described the conduct of General Motors as "perhaps the most bold and flagrant discovery abuse and defiance of its kind." Among other acts of discovery abuse, the court admonished General Motors for: (1) asserting frivolous claims of attorney-client privilege, (2) filing "misleading, incomplete and confusing" privilege logs despite court orders to avoid such conduct, (3) "deliberately failing to follow the court's instruction" on handling privilege issues, (4) "openly and blatantly defying" the court's discovery orders, and (5) making "recklessly inaccurate misstatements and misrepresentations" regarding the status of efforts to comply with discovery. In its final act of discovery abuse prior to the court entering this sanctions order, General Motors removed over 2,300 pages of discoverable material from boxes that the court ordered General Motors to produce to plaintiffs: "GM simply made a unilateral decision to remove documents and conceal its decision to violate this court's order. Furthermore, GM has exhausted this court's patience with constantly evolving and alternative explanations to justify its violation of this court's order." As a result of this "outrageous discovery abuse and blatant disregard of court orders," the court held that severe sanctions were necessary. The court found as a matter of law and fact (1) that General Motors defectively designed the fuel system on the subject vehicle, (2) that the fuel tank on the subject vehicle was susceptible to failure in foreseeable rear-impact collisions, and (3) that the filler neck of the subject vehicle was defective. Further, the court precluded General Motors from offering any evidence at trial that supported General Motors' defenses or undermined plaintiffs' claims.

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