Rodriguez v. Suzuki Motor Corp. and American Suzuki Motor Corp. 7/7/95

The case involved the propensity of the Suzuki Samurai to rollover due to an unstable and defective vehicle design. The jury awarded $30,000,000 in compensatory damages and $60,000,000 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 3 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 in the United States without making the significant engineering changes recommended by GM. The $90,000,000 verdict is the largest judgment rendered in any Samurai rollover case in the United States. More than 240 cases have been filed against Suzuki, and more than 7,000 people have been injured and 147 killed in Samurai rollover accidents since Suzuki started selling the vehicle in the United States. Prejudgment interest of $37,104,657.53 was awarded by the Court for a total judgment of $127,104,652.53.

Suzuki filed an appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court. The first verdict was overturned, and the case remanded to the trial court for a new trial.