In December 2007, Renee and Jordan Conley filed a product liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company in Cobb County for the single-vehicle rollover accident. Jordan was a child at the time of the accident and was severely injured in the crash. Renee is his mother. The lawsuit is also for Renee’s mother, and Jordan’s grandmother, Martha Pendelton, who died in the accident. During the trial in 2009, Ford objected to questions about its insurance coverage, saying only that it had sufficient resources to cover any reasonable judgment. The jury in that trial found in favour of Ford.
But then two years later, in June 2011, Ford disclosed it had excess verdict insurance coverage from several different carriers during the trial of a different product liability case. Upon learning this, the Conleys filed an extraordinary motion for a new trial based on the lack of information about insurance coverage at their trial, which prevented them from questioning jurors about potential connections to insurers. They claimed this lack of knowledge prevented them from having a fair and impartial jury hear the case. The Conley’s motion was granted, finding that Ford intentionally misled the Conleys and that they had not waived their right to qualify the jury. The Court of Appeals was divided 5-5 on the question and the case went to the Supreme Court of Georgia where oral arguments were heard on October 21, 2013. Ford argued that the Conleys were not materially harmed by its answers and that it properly objected to questions about possible liability insurers because the automaker had sufficient resources to cover any reasonable judgment.
The Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision, written by Justice Nahmias, affirming the trial court’s granting of the Conleys extraordinary motion for a new trial. The Court found that despite the high bar for an extraordinary motion like this one, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting it. The Court rejected Ford’s argument because under Georgia law, a party is entitled to ask jurors whether they are shareholders, officers, directors, or employees of an insurance carrier with a financial interest in the lawsuit. By not providing this information, Ford prevented the Conleys of this opportunity in the 2009 trial. So now Renee and Jordan Conley will have another chance to plead their case in court.
Atlanta Product Liability Attorneys
If a dangerous product has injured you or a family member, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. To discuss the specifics of your case and any steps to move forward in legal avenues to get any needed compensation to help your family through the difficult time, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.