Rodriguez v. Suzuki Motor Corp. and American Suzuki Corp. 10/31/97

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 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 1980's and rejected the idea of importing it into the United States because the vehicle would have "unacceptable rollover tendencies." After GM 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 GM. 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 United States.

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 appeal before a third trial. The settlement amount is confidential at Suzuki's request.

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